Michigan isn't known for being a state with policies that are friendly toward the LGBT community, but several state lawmakers are trying to change that. On Wednesday, a group of Democratic state Senators sponsored a package of legislation supporting gay marriage on a statewide and national basis.
Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) introduced Senate Joint Resolution W, a measure that would give Michigan voters the opportunity to repeal a 2004 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Senate Bill 405, proposed by Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), would overturn state restrictions on same-gender relationships that existed before the amendment. A proposal recognizing same-sex marriages approved by other states, Senate Bill 406, was introduced by Sen. Virgil Smith (D-Detroit). Finally, Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) offered a resolution calling for the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prevents same-sex couples from getting federal marriage benefits.
Although Republican majorities in the state House and Senate make it unlikely that the measures will pass, they could prove popular with voters. A recent poll of 600 registered Michigan voters conducted by Glengariff Group Inc. found that a 56.8 percent majority supported same-sex marriage, according to the Detroit News.
“This legislation will not only allow all couples to make a lifetime commitment to one another, but also extend important legal protections to them and their children," Warren said in a statement on the bills. Noting the state poll favoring same-sex marriage, which was released prior to the introduction of the legislative package, she added that she was "thrilled to see that Michiganders from across the state understand that ideology should no longer dictate" the issue.
Over the past decade, the state's political climate has not been particularly supportive of LGBT rights. In 2004, Michigan voters passed the amendment to the state constitution preventing marriage between same same-sex couples. Two years ago, Gov. Snyder signed legislation that banned state employees from receiving domestic partner benefits. More recently, Michigan Republican National committeeman Dave Agema compared gays and lesbians to alcoholics in widely publicized remarks posted on Facebook in March.
The state's ban on same-sex marriage is also coming under scrutiny in the courtroom after Detroit-area lesbian couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children. They filed a suit challenging Michigan adoption law last year, later expanding it to a federal challenge against the state amendment banning same-sex marriage at the invitation of U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman. However, Friedman decided to put the case on hold in March to see how the Supreme Court rules on cases involving California's gay marriage ban and DOMA.