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By Sean Kosofsky
They came in the wee hours of a Friday morning. They hunted us like prey. They waited quietly, stalking us for ten months, and then they pounced. Like wolves circling a wounded lamb, the Michigan Appeals Court showed its fangs and went for the jugular.
On Friday, Feb. 2, the so-called guardians of due process and democracy dug a grave for the gay community and shoved us in. They were dressed as judges, so their villainous ways escaped the normal systems of self defense. With our livelihood in their hands, three conservative jurists declared once and for all that gays are scum. In the single worst legal decision in the history of Michigan, three men ruled unanimously that the measly offerings of domestic partner benefits were still too good for gays. One of the only dignities we were permitted to have in Michigan was yanked from us and shredded before our eyes.
The court ruled that domestic partner benefits, a small benefit of employment, are virtually the same as marriage (which may come as a surprise to anti-gay marriage Republican who support domestic partner benefits.) The court refused to consider the intent of the voters, which is ironic because proponents of Proposal 2 insisted that gay marriage was so important, it had to be decided by the voters. I guess judicial activism is only reserved for liberals.
It is one thing to be betrayed by your neighbors, family members, and fellow Michiganians, and quite another to have the Michigan Appeals Court, the allegedly apolitical branch of government, sentence you to a life without health insurance. If you choose to work in the public sector, and work as a public servant, you are banned from asking the public to keep you healthy. The promise of America and of equal protection under the law, was trampled and left on the side of the road to die. Michigan is the only state in the nation that has ruled that gays are unworthy of the benefits of modern medicine. It is as if right-wing extremists, with each passing ballot measure and court decision, are telling minorities to uproot their families and move elsewhere. I no longer see a sign reading “Welcome to Michigan,” instead I only see signs that read, “Dead End.”
I have only seen rage in our community a few times. Like in 1986 when the U.S. Supreme Court said all gays could be thrown in jail, simply for making love. Then, when it appeared that the ban on gays in the military would be lifted, we suffered a backlash that began a witch hunt and the Republican Revolution of 1994. Then Matthew Shepherd was killed in 1998 and we were reminded of the reality of anti-gay homicide. And on election night 2004 a dozen states banned marriage equality, and America chose to reward a monster with a second term as President of the United States.
The court fight is not over yet, but it does look dim. With each passing day we are having incredible successes, but this court fight stings. It reaches into your gut and tears you up. It tells me that Michigan is at a crossroads. Will we be governed by judges who belong to the Federalist Society, or those who cherish the Constitution? Will the voters of Michigan hear about this court decision and go on reading their email without a care in the world, or will they talk to their gay and lesbian loved ones and reassure them that three judges do not speak for a majority of Michiganians?
The wolves are all around us now. They wear robes and claim neutrality. They work for “pro-family” organizations and cheer on this decision. They smell blood and won’t stop until our children, our jobs, our families and our communities are no longer safe. Our only defense is to unmask them, unseat them and undo them. We must show our teeth and push them back where they belong. Out of office, out of Michigan and out of business.