Earlier this month, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse scored an important victory in the fight for marriage equality -- a federal judge agreed to hear their arguments this fall against the Michigan Marriage Amendment. No matter the result of this case, it is a direct blow to Governor Rick Snyder's preferred tack of not making waves on social issues.
In 2004, Michiganders passed the Michigan Marriage Amendment, which bans civil unions and same-sex marriage in the state, with 59 percent of the vote. DeBoer and Rowse raise their three kids together in Hazel Park, MI. The MMA, however, prevents them from jointly adopting each other's children to unify their family legally.
Governor Snyder has been grabbing headlines following Detroit filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, but his opposition to this gay couple's joint adoption is no longer going unnoticed. When talking about the bankruptcy filing in an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder said, "I don't spend time dwelling on my legacy. I just try to do my job well." If the governor doesn't start worrying about his legacy on the issue of same-sex rights, though, will future Michiganders only remember him for obstructing civil rights?
Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette responded to the couple's legal challenge by reiterating the GOP's not-so-moderate stance on the issue:
"The Michigan Marriage Amendment fosters the State's legitimate interest in promoting responsible natural procreation, which, in turn, promotes raising children in a home environment with both a mother and a father, giving the children the benefit of having a role model of both sexes" the Governor and Attorney General said in their legal brief responding to the court.
Snyder, a venture capitalist turned politician, isn't taking any cues from the more progressive elements of his party. An ABC News/ Washington Post poll published in March showed that 52 percent of Republican voters under 50 support gay marriage. Sitting GOP Senators Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Illinois) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) also moved to the center by backing marriage equality in recent months. Snyder, on the other hand, continues to support the anti-gay positions of the red meat conservative base.
After losing the White House to President Obama last November, RNC chair Reince Priebus unveiled the Growth and Opportunity Project (G.O.P., get it?). This project sought to rebrand the Republican image in order to reconnect with mainstream voters. The process of actually getting there, though, has been less than smooth. The report offers an autopsy of the party, acknowledging the issues they face demographically. According to their diagnosis, the crux of the problem is messaging. Supposedly, Republican policy ideas are fine, but the messaging is just a tad off. Never mind that women, youth, Hispanics and LGBT voters find more fault in the substance of the Grand Old Party than simply their branding.
That disconnect between new ideas and intractable traditionalists highlights the schism in the Republican party. Rick Snyder has been far from immune to these rebranding woes. Snyder hardly expanded the tent to LGBT voters by signing into law legislation banning domestic partner benefits for public employees back in 2011. A Glengariff Poll released in March 2013 -- showing a majority of Michiganders wanted to repeal the MMA -- also did little to alter his hard-line stance in recent months.
In fact, Michiganders support same-sex unions to such an extent, the Mitten was ranked the second most likely state after New Jersey to allow marriage equality by The Atlantic. The active support for gay rights throughout the state is changing the conversation. While thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex marriage, Michigan could easily become number fourteen.
As DeBoer and Rowse move forward with their legal battle, gay marriage coming to Michigan in the near future looks inevitable. As the calendar continues to move closer to this case being heard in federal court, the question looms: will Rick Snyder start to sweat over his legacy or continue to stand on the wrong side of history?
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