Thursday, May 08, 2008

Vultures Come Home


Michigan is the latest, but certainly won't be the last. The hurt-the-queers laws and amendments will in reality leave a lot of collateral wounds.

The short of is that the state Supreme Court ruled 5 to 2 that wording the state DOMA-style amendment prevented businesses and schools from continuing to offer benefits to same-sex partners.

Over at Leonard Link, he is right on this with his analysis. Notably, he points to the dissenting opinion that stresses that this outcome is precisely what the anti-gay-rights folk swore would not happen. They said they just wanted to make double or triple sure that no gay couples could marry in Michigan.

The problem is just what civil-rights groups have predicted from the beginning of the laws and amendments. Both gay and straight couples, including siblings watching out for each other when one is disabled or incompetent, are ground up in the anti-gay machine.

The Michigan amendment is a great example of how this type of law or amendment destroys all in its path. On the face of it, the deceptively simple wording is vindictive, but not malicious. In fact, it uses a flamethrower to light a candle.

The proposal before the voters that passed was:
A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO SPECIFY WHAT CAN BE RECOGNIZED AS A "MARRIAGE OR SIMILAR UNION" FOR ANY PURPOSE

The proposal would amend the state constitution to provide that "the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose."

Should this proposal be adopted? Yes or No
Of course, the broad wording and lack of clarification are what the five-judge majority ruled on this week. If something is similar to marriage at all in benefits or protections, it's out. The similar union for any purpose is the Conan the Legislator weapon. It lacks subtlety.

The ham-fisted laws and constitutional changes in various states won't stand in many places, but it will take years or decades for changes. In the wake of such horrors as civil unions in Vermont and same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the rush to keep the gays from getting anything, much less what straights have, was clumsy.

As in several states with such amendments, voters seemed confused, particularly where there was already a one-man/one-woman definition of marriage on the books. In Michigan's case, it is unambiguous:

551.1 Marriage between individuals of same sex as invalid contract. Sec. 1.

Marriage is inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman. As a matter of public policy, this state has a special interest in encouraging, supporting, and protecting that unique relationship in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and its children. A marriage contracted between individuals of the same sex is invalid in this state.
Clearly the only reason to add a boobytrapped amendment is to ensure that homosexuals don't have a chance in hell of sharing what different-gendered couples have as a matter of course and law. The people who promote such amendments and laws are the same ones setting about redefining marriage from what it has been in this country from even before it was a country, from colonial times. Marriage has been and is a civil contract.

So, the result in Michigan as it will be elsewhere is harm to all classes of such personal contracts that protect a variety of people. The vast majority would certainly consider their relationships resembling marriage, but they are harmed nonetheless. Moreover, businesses and schools can't choose what benefits to offer to attract and retain employees. They will be precluded by this ruling.

This has to settle out. It will take lawsuits, new legislation, repeal of some existing laws and amendments. Meanwhile, many suffer.

It's likely that in some states the voters will come back to their lawmakers to say, "This isn't what we meant or wanted." Repent in leisure, as the accurate cliché concludes.

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2 comments:

laurel said...

And now we're left with the painful question: when we go to MI (I won't say "home" any more) this summer to celebrate my old dad's birthday with a family reunion, will my partner's and my legal documents (health care proxy, etc.) be honored if the need arises? MI = Grade A Hater State. Don't vacation there if you value your life and citizenship!

massmarrier said...

How long will it take the folk who push and vote for these vindictive amendments to get it together?

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