gay marriage

You likely saw it unfold on Facebook earlier this year.

In late March, Facebook users began changing their profile pics to show their support for gay marriage.

Facebook tracked analyzed those changes and found that 2.77 million users in the United States made the switch - and the users who made the switch were more likely to live along the coasts or in the Great Lakes region.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The documentary looks at religious views, transgender struggles, discriminatory laws, and anti gay-rights groups' concerns. You can listen to the full documentary below:

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

In This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rina Miller and political analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss bills in Lansing to penalize poor people who use drugs, a delay in the decision over gay marriage, and the sentencing of Bernard Kilpatrick.

Prospective brides and grooms in same-sex relationships could not be blamed for feeling jilted this week – not by their partners, but by the Eastern U.S. District Court in Detroit.

They expected this would be their day - that Judge Bernard Friedman would strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, and they would be among the first gay and lesbian couples in Michigan to tie the knot.

Instead, disappointment. Anger. Tears, in some cases. Big expectations dashed because Judge Friedman did not uphold or strike down the amendment, which was approved by Michigan voters in 2004 by a pretty commanding majority.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children.

In the years that they’ve lived together, Rowse has adopted two children, and DeBoer adopted one, splitting the responsibilities of parenthood together. But a state ban on same-sex joint adoptions prohibited them from officially adopting their children together.

So in January 2012, DeBoer and Rowse filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that preventing such adoptions violated rights of their children.

But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman told the couple to take their complaint further — challenge the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Paul Sancya / Associated Press

County clerks are preparing for a deluge of marriage license applications from gay people late this afternoon, should U.S. District Court judge Bernard Friedman issue a ruling that would allow same-sex people to marry.

But the brides and grooms-to be could be disappointed.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Nolan, Ryanne, and Jacob were excited about showing me their toys when I visited the home of Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer.

These three little kids have no idea that their moms are in the middle of one of the most closely watched federal court cases in Michigan.

Rowse, who is the legal parent of Nolan and Jacob, and DeBoer, who is Ryanne’s legal parent, have been raising the kids together -- jointly sharing their lives and responsibilities.

The two nurses wanted to jointly adopt their kids to better protect their futures.

Rick Pluta

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" last July, the IRS announced that as of September 16th, gay couples with a state sanctioned marriage will be required to file their federal taxes as joint returns with their partner, or "married filing separately" - regardless of what state they live in now.

But in Michigan, those same couples will still be required to file separate returns, according to a document posted on the Michigan Department of Treasury's website.

In a few weeks, a U.S. District judge will hold a hearing on a Michigan case that challenges the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. On today's show: we explored the implications the case could have in Michigan and across the nation.

Also on today's show, Michigan wines are really making a name for themselves outside of the state. We talked to a connoisseur who isn't the least bit surprised by that news. And, according to a new report, lobbyist spending on free lunches for legislators has gone up. We spoke to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network to see what else they are spending on. Also, The Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference was this past weekend. It's Just Politics co-hosts Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark joined us to talk about what happened there.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

On October 16th,  U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman will be hearing a case, which challenges Michigan’s Constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The case didn’t start out that way. It started out as a court case to simply protect the futures of these three little kids who really don’t understand such things as government and lawyers and courts. They only know they have a happy home with their two moms.

DeBoer and Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their kids to better protect their futures. The State of Michigan argued, no way. They can’t. They’re not married.

Their case has become the most anticipated development in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people’s rights in Michigan. They’re involved in a Federal court case that challenges the state’s Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

user dbking / Flickr

The IRS says same-sex couples legally wed in a state that allows it will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes -- even if they reside in a state like Michigan that does not allow same-sex marriage.

It’s not clear yet how the state will deal with the ruling.

Gay rights leaders say the IRS decision is very good news.

Emily Dievendorf is the director of Equality Michigan.

“So, while the federal government is now helping to provide some equality in federal income tax credits and child tax credits, Michigan tax credits do not apply to same-sex couples and families,” said Dievendorf.

Rick Pluta

Some county clerks are already planning what to do if a federal judge overturns Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages. There are efforts underway to create a gender-neutral version of Michigan’s marriage license and county wedding applications.

Paul Holland and Austin Ashley are planning a commitment ceremony in late September.

Things appear to be coming together. A service at a Buddhist temple, followed by a reception with dancing, drinks, a cake. Well, if they can settle on a cake. Holland says there’s a disagreement there.

“One of us is going to have to give in and give something to the other one, or we’ll just flip a coin, or however it needs to be resolved.”

Sometime later this year, Holland and Ashley plan a trip to New York to be formally married in a state that permits same-sex weddings. Those plans could be altered depending on a decision by a federal judge in Detroit on or shortly after October 1. 

Ashley and Holland say they’d hold a legal wedding ceremony in Michigan if U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman strikes down Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban and allows gay weddings to go ahead.

Paul Sancya / Associated Press

A federal judge in Detroit has set an October 1 hearing date for a legal challenge to Michigan’s ban on gay marriage and adoptions by same-sex couples. April DeBoer says the ban violates the civil rights of the three children she and her partner are raising together.

Judge Bernard Friedman wants to hear how attorneys for the state and for the couple -- DeBoer and Jayne Rouse -- think the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act affects this case.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Hearing date set for challenge to gay marriage ban

"A federal judge has set an October 1 hearing date for a challenge to Michigan’s ban on gay marriage and adoptions by same-sex couples. A lesbian couple in Hazel Park is seeking the right to marry or jointly adopt the children they are raising together. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to continue setting their own rules on marriage, and he is defending the Michigan Constitution," Rick Pluta reports.

Kevyn Orr and union leaders discuss pension benefits

"A group of Detroit pension and union leaders have met in the first of two closed-door meetings with the restructuring team of the city's state-appointed emergency manager. Kevyn Orr wants huge cuts in pension benefits and health insurance to avoid the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Some bankruptcy experts say the session could be the tipping point that leads to an unprecedented bankruptcy," the Associated Press reports.

Reinstated law prohibits schools from taking union dues

A Michigan law prohibiting schools from taking payroll deductions for union dues is back on the books. A federal judge erased an injunction on the law after an appeals court struck down her 2012 decision suspending it. The law was approved by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder. The appeals court said ending payroll deductions doesn't infringe on a union's right to free speech.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman was appointed to the bench by President Reagan.
wikipedia

Bernard Friedman is the U.S. District Judge who today refused to throw out a case that challenged Michigan's ban on gay marriage.

Friedman was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be a federal judge for the Eastern District of Michigan in 1988 and he became the Chief Judge of the District in 2004. 

Now he has senior status, which a federal judge can opt for instead of retiring. A senior status judge only hears the cases that the Chief Judge assigns to him or her. 

Rowse/DeBoer

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, United States District Judge Bernard Friedman wants a case challenging Michigan's adoption laws and the state's ban against same-sex marriage to go forward.

Today, Judge Friedman denied the state of Michigan's attempt to dismiss the case. He cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings in his decision.

From Friedman's ruling:

"Construing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, and in view of the Supreme Court’s current statement of the law, this Court cannot say that plaintiffs’ claims for relief are without plausibility. Plaintiffs are entitled to their day in court and they shall have it."

Friedman wants both sides in the case to appear in court on July 10. More from the Associated Press:

Friedman says he wants to discuss a trial date. He says last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision probably will be cited by the plaintiffs as well as state attorneys who are defending Michigan's 2004 ban on gay marriage.

After last week's U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the power for states to define marriage was left intact.

But gay rights advocates were emboldened to continue with their challenges to state laws barring gay marriage.

At a hearing on the case earlier this year, the two sides presented their arguments to Friedman.

The Detroit Free Press' Brian Dickerson wrote that Friedman "has been telegraphing his profound skepticism" about Michigan's gay marriage ban.

Three months ago, in an extraordinary hearing held in the auditorium of the Wayne State University Law School, Friedman repeatedly challenged two lawyers from state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office to explain what rational government purpose was served by treating same-sex couples differently. When the lawyers responded that Michigan had a legitimate interest in promoting “responsible procreation,” Friedman seemed more amused than persuaded, noting that many opposite-sex couples marry with no intention of conceiving or adopting children.

With the U.S. Supreme Court rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and remanding California's Proposition 8 case back to the lower courts, Judge Friedman will have more precedent with which to make his judgment from.

In today's ruling, Friedman wrote about how he expects the Supreme Court rulings to be used in this case:

Defendants will no doubt cite to the relevant paragraphs of the majority opinion espousing the state’s “historic and essential authority to define the marital relation.”...They will couch the popular referendum that resulted in the passage of the MMA as “a proper exercise of [the state’s] sovereign authority within our federal system, all in the way that the Framers of the Constitution intended.”...

Friedman writes the plaintiffs, DeBoer and Rowse, will use the Supreme Court's ruling, along with other cases, to support their claims:

And why shouldn’t they? The Supreme Court has just invalidated a federal statute on equal protection grounds because it "place[d] same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage."...Moreover, and of particular importance to this case, the justices expressed concern that the natural consequence of such discriminatory legislation would not only lead to the relegation of same-sex relationships to a form of second-tier status, but impair the rights of “tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” as well...This is exactly the type of harm plaintiffs seek to remedy in this case.


*This post has been updated.

Aimee Hechler / imgur.com

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage don’t really change the legal status of same-sex couples in Michigan. In 2004, voters amended the Michigan Constitution to enact a sweeping ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

But there’s a lot happening on the issue in courts, the Legislature, and on the campaign trail.

The Supreme Court’s decision returns gay marriage battles to Michigan and the 34 other states that prohibit same-sex marriage.

Gay rights groups here have set their sights on November of 2016. That’s when they hope to run a ballot question to reverse the state’s gay marriage ban. 

 If you are a liberal, you were probably dismayed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act Tuesday, and thrilled by the justices’ ruling on same-sex marriage Wednesday.

If you are a conservative, you probably feel exactly the opposite.  Yet things are seldom as black and white as they seem, and like everyone else, Michiganders are apt to see just how complex the effects of these rulings really are, as the consequences of these decisions play out in coming months and years.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Potential impact of U.S. Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage yesterday won't have any immediate effects in Michigan, but they could impact the state in other ways.

"A federal judge says he’ll rule soon on a case dealing with same-sex adoptions in Michigan. But the decision could extend beyond adoption rights and address the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage...Gay rights activists in Michigan are also gearing up for a 2016 ballot campaign to overturn the state’s ban," Jake Neher reports.

Republican senators form Medicaid workgroup

"Six Republican senators will meet over the summer to consider ways to possibly improve Medicaid expansion legislation pending in the Michigan Senate. Governor Rick Snyder is traveling the state to pressure Senate Republicans to vote after they adjourned last week without voting...Snyder calls the workgroup's creation 'good progress,'" according to the Associated Press.

Wayne State University students face steep tuition hike

A budget passed yesterday by the Wayne State Board of Governors raises the tuition for a fulltime resident undergraduate at the university by $904 for the 2013-2014 school year. Wayne State Board of Governors Chairwoman Debbie Dingell says the state's failure to adequately fund universities made the increase necessary. The school says it will also increase financial aid by 11%.

Aimee Hechler / imgur.com

Update 4:30 p.m.

Earlier this month, Michigan Radio's Lester Graham spoke with Kent and Diego Love-Ramirez - a gay couple in Michigan and the parents of two-year-old Lucas. The two were legally married in Washington D.C. last December, but they live in Michigan - a state that doesn't recognize their union:

"...it is very difficult for us to be in a two-parent family and not have that recognized."

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Michigan Democrats propose legislation to legalize same-sex marriage

While they wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage this week, Michigan House Democrats are proposing legislation that would let voters reconsider the ban on same-sex marriage in the state.

“Legislation would let voters replace the gay marriage ban with an amendment that specifically allows same-sex marriages…The Republican state House speaker says any effort to reverse the same-sex marriage ban should start with a citizen-initiated petition drive,” Rick Pluta reports.

Governor Snyder still pushing Senate on Medicaid expansion

“Governor Rick Snyder says he’s considering vetoing every bill that hits his desk until state lawmakers vote to expand Medicaid in Michigan…Snyder blasted the state Senate last week for leaving on summer recess without voting on the bill. He says he’s looking at a variety of options to get lawmakers back in Lansing,” Jack Neher reports.

Bay Mills casino case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide if the state can challenge a tribe’s right to open a casino in the northern Michigan town of Vanderbilt.

“The case now goes on the docket for the Supreme Court’s upcoming term. The issue is whether state Attorney General Bill Schuette has the legal standing to challenge the casino. The Bay Mills Indian tribe says he does not – that the Vanderbilt property is part of the tribe’s independent territory," according to Rick Pluta.

user Marlith / Flickr

This morning, some Michigan House Democrats gathered on the front lawn of the Capital to explain some new bills that would allow marriage for people who are gay or lesbian.

Polls of Michigan citizens indicate a growing number of people say it’s time for marriage equality for LGBT folks - about 57% approve.

That’s quite a turnaround. Just nine years ago the people of Michigan approved a state constitutional amendment specifically banning gay marriage. It passed by nearly 59%.

In the midst of this, we’re waiting for decisions on two gay rights issues in the U.S. Supreme Court. To help wade through all this and what it means is Rick Pluta, capital bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikimedia Commons

Michigan State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) could be opening the door to extending civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. That would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas such as employment and housing.

The state's civil rights act protects a variety of groups from discrimination. It includes protections for categories like race and age, but sexual orientation has yet to be included.

Love-Ramirez family

In Michigan, if you’re gay or lesbian, you can’t get married.

And for LGBT partners who adopt children it’s nearly impossible for both to have parental rights. That causes legal difficulties in providing a secure future for the kids they’re raising.

Two-year-old Lucas has two dads, Kent and Diego Love-Ramirez.

Diego is an airline pilot, and Kent works at Michigan State University.

“We’ve been together just over ten years. And we married in a religious ceremony five years ago and just legally married in Washington, D.C.," said Kent.

Kent and Diego are the only parents Lucas has ever known. But, the State of Michigan does not recognize one of them as a parent.

Emily Fox

BOYNE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Two men who became spouses at a Michigan Indian reservation in a state that bans same-sex marriages have been invited to the White House.

MLive.com reports that Tim LaCroix and Gene Barfield will be guests of President Barack Obama on Thursday at a reception honoring LGBT Pride Month. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

The men were married in March by the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, of which LaCroix is a member.  Same-sex marriage is prohibited in Michigan, but federally recognized Native American tribes are self-governing and aren't bound by state law.

Barfield and LaCroix say they were shocked to receive the invitation and canceled a scheduled trip to California.

The longtime partners live in Boyne City.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Jeb Bush endorses school choice at Mackinac Policy Conference

"Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush told a large business and political conference on Mackinac Island that Michigan and other states should clear the way for more charter and online schools. He also urged Michigan to stick with the Common Core education standards," reports Rick Pluta.

Michigan Democrats push for marriage equality

Yesterday, Democrats in the Michigan state senate announced their intent to introduce legislation repealing the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

"Democratic Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor says polling shows more Michiganders support gay marriage than just a year ago. She also said that married couples enjoy a host of legal protections, and removing Michigan’s ban would ensure gay couples can be legal parents to their adoptive children," according to the Associated Press.

Snyder comments on sale of DIA collection

"Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says he hopes Detroit’s financial crisis doesn’t force emergency manager Kevyn Orr to sell off items from the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art... Orr says the DIA’s collection could face sale if Detroit seeks bankruptcy protection...Snyder said yesterday at the Mackinac Policy Conference that the DIA is ‘important to the livelihood of the city" and that "the goal is not to sell the assets of the DIA in a wholesale fashion,’" the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There’s a new effort to protect the property rights of same-sex couples in Michigan.

Currently, Michigan law only allows a spouse to inherit property in the absence of a will.  Michigan's constitution prohibits same sex marriage.   

But Ingham County is now recognizing out-of-state marriage licenses or affidavits from gay couples.  The county’s Register of Deeds says including the documents will help protect the property rights of same-sex couples.  

In 2004, a majority of Michigan voters approved an amendment to the state constitution, banning any recognition of marriage or civil unions between same-sex couples.

Just nine years later, it appears there has been a sea change.

A new poll, paid for by Chicago-based marketing consulting company, the Glengariff Group, finds that not only do most respondents agree the 2004 amendment should be reversed, they also support immediately replacing the ban with a new amendment, protecting marriage rights for gay and lesbian residents of the state.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

Yesterday, Minnesota’s governor signed a bill that made gay marriage legal in the state.

Could Michigan be the next state to make steps towards legalizing gay marriage?

Given the state’s current constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage, probably not anytime soon.  But more Michiganders support gay marriage than they did a year ago.

According to a state-wide poll released to The Detroit News and WDIV-TV Channel 4 on Tuesday, 56.8% of Michigan residents support gay marriage. That’s a 12.5 percentage point increase since May 2012 when 44.3% of Michiganders supported gay marriage.

Opinions have drastically changed since January 2011, when only 38% supported gay marriage. 

Republican opinion has shifted the most – 36.5% of Republicans supported gay marriage in the most recent poll compared to the 20% who supported it in 2012.

user Marlith / Flickr

Some Michigan legislators have pushed bills calling for religious liberties to be honored through law. But one person’s religious liberty might be another person’s religious suppression.

Much of the debate about same-sex marriage is centered in people’s religious beliefs. The religion with the most followers in Michigan is the Catholic Church. It opposes same-sex marriage.

“Marriage from the Catholic perspective is between one man and one woman because that promotes the creation, the procreation of life,” explained Thomas Hickson, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Michigan Catholic Conference

It should be noted that a survey of Michigan voters last year found the majority of people who identified themselves as Catholic approved of same-sex civil unions or marriage. But that’s not the Church’s official position.

Recently the Catholic Conference announced its advocacy priorities for the current legislative session.  Among the religious liberties it intends to defend is a 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution. That amendment defines marriage as between one woman and one man. It also bans recognition of similar unions- in other words Michigan cannot grant any of the rights or privileges of marriage to same-sex couples. No adoption rights. No survivor’s benefits. No health insurance for public employees.

But, some other religious organizations view same-sex marriage differently and feel gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people should be treated equally under the law.

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