Michigan Legislator Calls for Repeal of Gay Marriage Ban

Todd Heywood

Following up on a June surprise, Michigan House Speaker Pro Tem Pam Byrnes on Wednesday announced she had introduced legislation to roll back a 2004 constitutional amendment which bans same-sex marriage in the state.

This article is reprinted from the Michigan Messenger, as part of a partnership between Rewire and the Center for Independent Media.

Following up on a June surprise, Michigan House Speaker Pro Tem Pam Byrnes
on Wednesday announced she had introduced legislation to roll back a
2004 constitutional amendment which bans same-sex marriage in the state.

Pam Byrnes

Pam Byrnes

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Byrnes,
a Democrat from Washtenaw County’s Lyndon Township, introduced a
package of bills which includes: a repeal of of the Constitutional
amendment, which will require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the
legislature; a bill to explicitly legalize same-sex marriage in
Michigan; and a bill to remove state law restrictions which prevent
Michigan from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in another state.

“This really boils down to treating all people with the dignity and
respect everyone deserves,” she said. “So many of us were raised to
treat others how we’d like to be treated — it’s about time we start
actually doing that. Last time I checked the Golden Rule didn’t say
‘treat others how you’d like to be treated, unless they are gay or
lesbian.”

Byrnes told Michigan Messenger in June, that she thought the time was right for the legislative move.

The time has come. … I think attitudes are changing. We
are seeing other states flip on this issue especially when you get the
former Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledging same-sex marriages then
I think we definitely see a change in attitude and it’s time to revisit
this.

Byrnes’ proposal would require a two-thirds vote of approval from
both the House and the Senate in order to revise the state constitution
by putting a question on the ballot.

And electoral success in Michigan Tuesday might just support Byrnes’ June optimism.

Byrnes announcement on Wednesday came less than 24 hours after Kalamazoo voters overwhelmingly approved
an ordinance to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of, among other
things, sexual orientation and gender identity. Those same voters in
Kalamazoo voted openly gay resident Terry Kuseke to the city commission.

Voters in Detroit also sent openly gay former news man Charles Pugh to the president’s seat
on the Detroit City Council — making him the first openly gay council
member in the city’s history. Meanwhile, voters in Ferndale return
Michigan’s first openly gay mayor, Craig Covey, to the mayor’s seat
there.

The issue of same-sex marriage itself had a mixed result nationally. Maine voters rejected a law which would allow same-sex couples to marry, while Washington state voters approved a ballot measure dubbed “everything but marriage.”
A year ago, as the nation celebrated the election of then-U.S. Sen.
Barack Obama to the White House, LGBT Americans were outraged to lose
the right to marry in California because an initiative there, called
Proposal 8, passed.

Byrnes was flanked by representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan; Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-based LGBT rights group; Michigan Equality, a Lansing-based LGBT rights group; and from both organized labor and clergy.

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