Bills aim to make Michigan 38th state to recognize same-sex marriage

LANSING – A group of Democratic state lawmakers introduced a package of bills today that would make Michigan the 38th state to recognize same-sex marriages. State Representative Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and state Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) introduced resolutions that would place a repeal of Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage before the voters. The bills are being introduced as more than 300 same-sex couples prepare to celebrate their one year anniversary. Last March, a federal judge ruled Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

“Marriage is more than just two people declaring their commitment to each other before friends and family. It affects everything from their ability to buy car insurance together to their ability to visit a spouse in the hospital, and their legal standing as co-parents to their children,” Moss said. “For all these reasons and more, a majority of Michiganders now say it’s time for marriage equality in our state, and I’m proud to sponsor the legislation that would put a referendum to repeal our state’s same-sex marriage ban before voters.”

Additionally, state Representatives Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), and state Senator Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing), introduced legislation to allow same-sex marriage and recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) sponsored a bill allowing married same-sex couples to file state taxes jointly. State Representative Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) sponsored legislation concerning the filing of certain marriage licenses.

“The state of Michigan must treat all of its citizens with dignity and respect,” Wittenberg said. “The time for policies of exclusion is over. It’s time now to make certain that Michigan is open and welcoming to everyone, which is why it’s time to make marriage equality a reality in our state.”

Added Senator David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights), “When I raised my right hand and swore an oath to defend our country, it was to protect the rights and freedoms of each and every person. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of citizens right here in Michigan who do not enjoy equal rights, including the right to legally marry the man or woman that they love. If our country and our state truly wants to afford all citizens the promise of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ we must push forward in our fight for equality.”

Currently, Michigan bans same-sex marriage both in statute and by constitutional amendment, and that ban has been challenged in the federal courts. Last March, District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, allowing a brief window in which more than 300 couples married in Michigan before the 6th Circuit stayed the decision. In February of this year, the state was ordered to recognize those marriages as legal. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the DeBoer v. Snyder case on April 28, with a decision expected in June.

“As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs this decision, it’s important we take action to put Michigan on the right side of history. Should the court declare that marriage equality is the law of the land, the Michigan Legislature will need to clean up bad statutes and an unconstitutional provision of our state’s constitution,” Moss said. “We deserve to live in a state that values all of its citizens.”

The legislators were joined by Glenna DeJong and Marsha Caspar, the first legally married same-sex couple in Michigan. They were wed in Ingham County last year when a federal judge ruled the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. A stay was issued soon after when Attorney General Bill Schuette appealed the decision.

“We’re members of a small, exclusive club of same-sex couples who were able to marry during a brief window on March 22, 2014, but we don’t want to be,” DeJong said. “We want to be members of an inclusive club that welcomes any same-sex couple who wishes to marry.”

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