While LGBTQ marriage equality was passed by the Supreme Court in 2015, outdated language on Michigan's lawbooks hasn't been amended. In fact, many bills still refer to marriage as an act between one man and one woman, like Michigan's 2004 same-sex marriage ban. But that soon may change, as State House Minority Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) has, along with 28 Democratic representatives, sponsored a 54-bill package that would remove discriminatory gendered references across Michigan state law.
"What people often forget is that state laws are also still on the books right now that are contrary to the federal Supreme Court ruling," Rabhi said. "And while federal law, of course, supersedes state law … it is important to clean the books at the state level and ensure that our state laws are in compliance with federal laws so that if things are to change at the federal level, we would still have our state laws on the books that are protective of everyone's equal rights."
In addition to the 54 bills, Democrats have introduced House Joint Resolution T, that would put a question on the ballot to repeal the same-sex marriage ban in the state Constitution.
Historically, Michigan's Republican representatives have not budged when it comes to passing pro-LGBTQ legislation like amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include statewide legal protections for gender identity and sexual orientation. When asked if he felt the push to update the outdated language was a viable one, Rabhi was confident.
"Because this is purely technical in nature, I don't see any reason why this should not pass," Rabhi said. "I think that, obviously, the bills that are more explicit about removing the marriage ban in state law will be the most difficult to get passed. I do think that of the 54 there's one Constitutional amendment and there are three other bills that change within state law the specific ban on same-sex marriages, those are probably the most difficult, though they are technical in nature."
He went on to say that "none of these bills should be political."
"Certainly not changing 'husband and wife' to 'spouse' so that we can include everybody in our state laws," he said. "That, to me, is a fix that would be meaningful and impactful. But it should really not be one that Republicans have a problem with."