same sex marriage

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each week, Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry, and weekend host Rina Miller look back on the big news events in Michigan. You can listen to their discussion above. Below is a short summary.

Lawsuit over Taylor School District contract tossed out

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

Federal judge will hear challenge to gay marriage ban

A federal judge is allowing a legal challenge to Michigan adoption laws and its ban on same-sex marriage to move forward. Judge Bernard Friedman says the decision to strike down DOMA last week left unanswered questions that could be addressed by this case. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are raising three children together; they say Michigan law violates the equal protection rights of their children. The judge called a July 10th hearing to chart the next steps in the case.

Legislation to improve legal defense for indigent Michiganders

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation yesterday that will make changes to the state’s public defense system. The bill will create a commission to set statewide standards to ensure effective legal representation for poor defendants. The commission will also monitor counties to make sure each one is meeting those standards.

Flint EM warns possibility of bankruptcy

Flint's Emergency Manager, Ed Kurtz, warns the city could run out of money if it's forced to pay retirees full health benefits. A federal judge recently ruled Flint has to give retired workers the benefits they were promised. Kurtz says the decision hurts retirees more than it helps and that bankruptcy would mean much bigger cuts for retirees and current workers.

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.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples who are legally married will be recognized by the federal government. The court also ruled in a case that basically makes same-sex marriage in California legal.

But what does that mean for Michigan?

In 2004 voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriage or similar union. What’s the future of that amendment? What changes will there be for same-sex couples legally married in another state but living in Michigan?

Larry Dubin, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy law school and Emily Dievendorf, the managing director of Equality Michigan, joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

We continued our look at energy in Michigan today with coal. DTE Energy's Skiles Boyd and the Sierra Club's Tiffany Hartung spoke with us about what is being done in Michigan to reduce coal emissions and move towards renewable energy.

Also, the new Whole Foods store in Midtown Detroit has garnered a lot of attention. We talked with Kami Pothukuchi and Micki Maynard about how the store has affected the area.

First on the show, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, meaning same-sex couples who are legally married will be recognized by the federal government. The court also ruled in a case that basically makes same-sex marriage in California legal.

But what does that mean for Michigan?

In 2004, voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriage or similar union. What’s the future of that amendment? What changes will there be for same-sex couples legally married in another state but living in Michigan?

Larry Dubin, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy law school and Emily Dievendorf, the managing director of Equality Michigan, joined us today to discuss the issue.

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the state Senate's failure to expand Medicaid before summer recess, how states will be affected by the Voting Rights Act, and legislation in Lansing to re-consider the state's outlaw on same-sex marriage.

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.

We begin a week-long look at energy in Michigan. Today, we focused on solar energy and what it could mean for our state.

And, we turned to Lansing where some Democrats in the state House are introducing legislation to allow gay marriage in Michigan.

Also, we spoke with Charles Ballard and Rick Haglund about whether Michigan is going to make an economic comeback.

First on the show, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has issued its annual Kids Count report on the well-being of children across the nation. In Michigan, the outline is a mixed bag, but overall Michigan is last among Great Lakes states for child well-being.

There were improvements in how well kids are doing in school, some improvements in the area of the health of kids and the number who have health insurance, but in every category of economic well-being, children in Michigan are in worse shape.

Patrick McCarthy is the President and Chief Executive author of Kids Count, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

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.

user Marlith / Flickr

In 2004, 58% of Michigan voters voted yes to a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

But that was nearly a decade ago. Since that vote, there's been an annual survey testing Michiganders' attitudes towards the issue. And the latest survey by the Glengarriff Group shows a major turnaround in the way we view same-sex marriage.

Today, Michigan voters back gay marriage by a 57% to 37% margin — almost an exact reversal of the vote on the constitutional ban.

With that backdrop, four Democratic senators have proposed a package of legislation that would advance recognition of same-sex marriage in our state.

A group of Democratic Senators in Lansing have proposed a package of bills dealing with marriage equality. We spoke with state Senator Rebekah Warren about why she thinks now is the time to bring up these measures.

And, the library you may have grown up with is changing. We took a look at the new technologies changing the way we access information and what that means for the future of libraries in Michigan.

Also, Michigan gas prices are now the second-highest in the country. Patrick DeHaan, a Senior Petroleum Analyst, spoke with us about how this happened.

First on the show, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow suspicion-based drug testing as a condition of welfare in Michigan. People on cash assistance could lose their benefits if they test positive for an illegal substance.

As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reported, it’s not clear how the bill would affect medical marijuana patients.

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.  

The Michigan Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to the policy that allows live-in partners of state employees to be covered by their health coverage.

The court’s decision allows the policy to stand. 

The benefit was negotiated as part of most state employee contracts.

Attorney General Bill Schuette challenged the benefit arguing that providing insurance for live-in partners violates the state’s ban on recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each week we discuss Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Michigan’s new emergency manager law went into effect today, so we wanted to find out how the new law differs from the one voters overturned in the November 2012 election. And we discuss the legal challenges to the new law. Plus, the Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week centering on same-sex marriage. In Michigan in 2004, voters approved a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage and civil unions. There has been a legal challenge to that ban, but the judge overseeing the case chose to delay his decision until after the Supreme Court makes their ruling. 

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

A Native American tribe in northern Michigan has become one of the first in the nation to legalize same sex marriage.

The Tribal Chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians signed a statute Friday to legalize same sex marriage. Just moments after Chairman Dexter McNamara gave the final swipe of his pen, he married two men from Boyne City.

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

Two men from Boyne City were the first same sex couple in Michigan to be legally married today.

This came minutes after the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians signed a statute to legalize gay marriage within the tribe.

Here's an on-air report I filed with sounds from the ceremony:

The Odawa tribe is the first tribe in Michigan and one of only three in the nation to legalize same sex marriage.

Denise Petoskey with the Odawa Tribe proposed the same sex marriage statute to the tribe last year.

“I’m just really excited and proud to be Odawa and I think it’s amazing and I hope other people take our lead,” said Petosky.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor Snyder expected to appoint an EM for Detroit today

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to announce his pick for Detroit's emergency manager today. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"Snyder is widely expected to name high-powered Washington, D.C., lawyer Kevyn Orr, 54, who worked in a number of federal government roles and had a hand in Chrysler’s bankruptcy turnaround."

Commission will study human trafficking

"A commission will spend six months studying the problem of human trafficking and child prostitution in Michigan. The task force will then deliver a set of recommendations on new laws and ways to connect victims of human trafficking with help. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette convened the task force," Rick Pluta reports.

Odawa tribe to allow same-sex marriage

"The chairman of a northern Michigan Indian tribe says he'll sign a same-sex marriage bill Friday, then preside at the wedding of two men. The legislative body of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians voted 5-4 on March 3 to amend the Harbor Springs-based tribe's laws to allow same-sex marriages," the Associated Press reports.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

Each Saturday, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry look at some of the top regional news stories of the week.

Carl Levin won't run for re-election

We got a political bombshell this week when U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said he won't run for re-election next year. But Lessenberry says this wasn't entirely unexpected. He expects a lot of people to run for Levin's seat including Congressman Gary Peters and Congressman Mike Rodgers.

Detroit prepares for an emergency manager

The Detroit City Council says "not so fast" when it comes to the governor’s appointment of an emergency manager. Mayor Bing says it's too late to resist the appointment. It's just going to happen. Lessenberry says the City Council may well appeal, but he doesn't expect the Governor to reverse his decision. "They are doing a pro-forma thing mainly for political consumption."

A challenge to Michigan's same-sex marriage ban

The discussion of same-sex marriage in Michigan was put on hold after it looked like a federal judge might make a ruling on Michigan’s constitutional amendment. Lessenberry says "no one can really fault U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman for doing this because the U.S. Supreme Court is going to rule on a case in California on a similar law."  He says that way Friedman can craft a ruling that isn't in conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. He joins us Saturday mornings to review the week’s top news stories.

Rowse/DeBoer

This morning, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman heard arguments for and against Michigan's 2004 constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions.

There was some speculation that Judge Friedman could rule on the case today.

Instead he decided to wait before issuing his decision.

He said he wanted to wait to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on two cases dealing with same-sex marriage. Those cases are set to be heard later this month.

MPRN's Rick Pluta was at the hearing this morning and live tweeted the hearing.

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell / Wikimedia Commons

A divided Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette challenged the state Civil Service Commission agreement with public employee unions.

Among other things, the attorney general says the policy violates Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

But the court’s majority said the policy makes no distinction between people in same-sex relationships and heterosexual live-in partners.        

A new poll shows a majority of Michiganders support gay marriage.

8 years ago, 59% of Michigan voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage and civil unions.

But Michigan State University researchers say a poll has found 56% of Michiganders are now in favor of gay marriage.    The poll of more than a thousand Michiganders turn place between mid-June and mid-August.

Charles Ballard is the director of the State of the State Survey.  He says there remains a core of people ‘Strongly Opposed’ to gay marriage.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

A lesbian couple from the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park is using an ongoing lawsuit to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are jointly raising three special-needs children, who initially came to them through the foster care system, since birth. They’ve already filed suit in federal court, challenging the state code that forbids unmarried couples from adopting.

The Guardian

The rights of gay and lesbian Americans leaped into the national spotlight again after President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage. He made the announcement a day after North Carolinians voted to become the 30th state in the U.S. to place a ban on same-sex marriage.

Michigan voters banned same-sex marriages in 2004.

Some states have done the opposite. They've passed laws expressly allowing same sex marriages.

And then there are laws on adoption. Some states allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly. Other states have banned the practice.

Laws restricting and protecting gay Americans vary widely from state to state. There are laws regarding hospital visitation, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, hate crimes, and harassment in schools.

The national picture on gay and lesbian legal rights and restrictions is jumbled and difficult to explain.

But a unique form of journalism - data visualization journalism - can help bring light to the overall picture.

That's just what The Guardian has done with U.S. state laws that address gay and lesbian issues.

In one look, you can see which states have adopted laws protecting the rights of gays and lesbians, and which states have passed laws restricting their rights.

The Guardian's color wheel shows that in the Midwest, Iowa stands out legislatively as a "gay friendly" state, while states like Michigan would decidedly not be seen that way.

Michigan, Mississippi, and Utah are the only states that expressly ban same-sex marriages and joint adoption by same-sex couples.

Take a look at their color wheel and let us know what you think of it.

HT to GG

Dan Bobkoff / Changing Gears

Late last year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a controversial law barring many live-in partners of state employees from receiving government health benefits. Snyder and some members of the state legislature cited cost as the primary reason behind the ban. But critics of the law, including the ACLU of Michigan, said the law unfairly targeted same-sex couples.

Now, just south of the border, things might be moving in the opposite direction.

According to a story in the Toledo Blade, the city's Mayor Mike Bell is planning to bring legislation concerning domestic partner benefits before the city council. The measure would give Toledo city employees the opportunity to extend their health care benefits to cover their live-in partners, provided couples sign up for the city's Domestic Partner Registry.

More from the Blade:

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples would be eligible for benefits under the proposed law...

"What we're trying to do is bring our city, form the standpoint of human resources and affirmative-action policies, in line with what's happening nationally," Mayor Bell said. "We're not the first train pulling out of the station here, we're actually in a way trying to catch up with the policies that make companies and cities competitive in the state of Ohio."

Other cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, along with Lucas County, the University of Toledo, Owens Corning, and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, offer benefits to domestic partners of employees, according to information provided by the mayor's office.

But, the Blade reports, some council members are already voicing misgivings about the policy:

George Sarantou said he has many questions about the proposed law and is concerned it could be too costly for a city that has struggled financially in recent years.

"Cost is always a factor when you're dealing with a budget," Councilman Sarantou said...

Councilman Rob Ludeman, meanwhile, expressed both financial and moral concerns about the proposed law. During his last term, Mr. Ludeman was one of two councilmen who voted against the Domestic Partner Registry.

"A lot of it was my own religious beliefs, but I think I represented a conservative constituency who were opposed to it, gay and straight people," Mr. Ludeman said.

Mayor Bell told the Blade that he doesn't believe the benefits will present any financial strain and said it comes down to fairness:

"When you're the mayor, you represent everybody," the mayor said. "Inside the city we have a lot of different lifestyles. All I'm trying to do is be fair to everybody. ... I'm trying to adjust our polices to the obvious that's in front of us right now at this particular time in history."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich. (AP) - The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians' tribal council is considering a constitutional amendment that would recognize same-sex marriages.

The Petoskey News-Review and WPBN-TV report the American Indian tribe would be the first in Michigan and among a few nationwide to legalize gay marriages if the amendment is adopted.

Most of the about 4,000 people in the tribe live in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. If the measure is approved, at least one of partner would have to be a member of the tribe. The idea was initially encouraged by two tribal citizens in a letter to the tribal council urging consideration of an amendment.

The proposal currently is in a public comment period. The current tribal constitution defines marriage as between "one man and one woman."

A court has thrown out a lawsuit by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Schuette wanted to block a new policy that allows unmarried state workers to put live-in partners on their insurance plans.

The attorney general went to court after attempts by Governor Rick Snyder and Republicans in the Legislature failed to halt the new benefits for unmarried live-in partners  - which includes people in same-sex relationships.

The independent state Civil Service Commission earlier this year approved contracts with state employees that allow live-in partner benefits. The court said the commission acted within the scope of its authority when it approved the contracts. But it’s not settled that state employees will be able to continue to list domestic partners and their children as dependents on their benefits plan. The attorney general could appeal the court ruling.

A state Senate committee has also approved legislation that would ban public employers - such as the state, school districts and universities - from offering contracts that allow unmarried partner benefits.

The state Supreme Court has refused to take the case of a lesbian woman who wants the right to visit the children she helped raise with her ex-partner.

The court’s decision lets stand a lower court ruling that same-sex partners do not have custody rights in Michigan.

Renee Harmon and Tammy Davis were together for 19 years, and during that time started a family together. Davis served as the biological mother via artificial insemination to their three children. After the relationship broke up, Harmon was denied visitation and sued for parenting time.

Michigan does not recognize same-sex relationships - nor does it allow unmarried couples to adopt.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Harmon lacked the legal standing to sue.

The state Supreme Court allowed that decision to stand by refusing to take the case.

The court divided on party lines in its decision. Republican majority voted not to take the case. Democrats said the court should.

In her dissent to the order, Justice Marilyn Kelly wrote the case raises so many questions regarding the state constitution and parents’ rights that it “cries out for a ruling from the state’s highest court.”

Flickr/Marlith

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed New York's gay marriage bill, starting what is expected to be a crush of gay weddings beginning in 30 days.
    

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