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Anti-gay marriage amendment proposal remains a threat

By |2003-10-30T09:00:00-05:00October 30th, 2003|Uncategorized|

LANSING – Ever since State Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) unveiled his anti-gay marriage amendment proposal at the beginning of this month, LGBT people in Michigan have been on the defensive. The resolution, which must be approved by a two thirds majority in the House (that’s 26 votes), seeks to get a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Michigan on the 2004 ballot.
Currently Cropsey’s resolution, which is officially titled Senate Joint Resolution E, has 18 cosponsors; 17 Republicans and one Democrat (Dennis Olshove of Warren). He needs eight more votes to get this on the ballot.
Sean Kosofsky, director of Policy for the Triangle Foundation, maintains that Cropsey doesn’t have his 26 votes, even though the Senator claimed earlier this month that he did. Triangle was awarded a $3,500 Equality Fund Grant from the Human Rights Campaign for Triangle’s work against this legislation. “Triangle has been very, very aggressive with meeting with Senators and we’re convinced right now that they don’t have the votes,” he said. “But that could change.”
And that possibility should be very frightening for LGBT people in Michigan. “This is a real, real threat,” said Kosofsky. He maintained that the Michigan amendment was an even bigger threat than the current federal amendment drive.
On Oct. 21, Coalition for a Fair Michigan held their first press conference. CFM is a statewide grassroots organization formed to defeat the anti-gay marriage initiative introduced by Cropsey. Member organizations include Affirmations, ACLU of Michigan, American Friends Service Committee, The Coalition for Adoption Rights Equality, Detroit Black Gay Pride Inc., Michigan Equality, New Covenant Community Church, PFLAG Detroit and Downriver, Transgender Michigan, and Triangle Foundation.
“The amendment seeks to permanently codify gay people as second-class citizens, and that’s just wrong,” said Beth Bashert, co-chair of CFM in a press release. “Once again, we see in Michigan a small but powerful group seeking to build their political base by attacking gay people.”
Currently Michigan and federal law prohibit same-sex marriage. Michigan has its own Defense of Marriage Act modeled after the federal Defense of Marriage Act that was signed by President Clinton in 1996. CFM sees the amendment as unnecessary and mean-spirited.
CFM contends that the backers of the marriage amendment are some of the same people who were responsible for a rash of anti-gay city charter amendments throughout the state in 2001 and 2002.
Momentum for the marriage amendment is building among right-wing politicians and groups. Several counties in Michigan, including Oakland, Monroe, Lapeer, and Jackson, have passed resolutions expressing support for the marriage amendment. The American Family Association of Michigan is behind these drives. Only weeks ago, Ottawa County’s Board of Commissioners chose to not address the issue and put a resolution on hold indefinitely. Gary Glenn, President of AFA Michigan, spearheaded a phone campaign to Ottawa City Commissioners urging them to reconsider and vote on the matter.
LGBT groups and leaders have been calling on the community to contact the Commissioners of their counties in support of same-sex families and against derisive resolutions that seek to put counties on record as being anti-gay. Although contacting representatives on all levels, including local and federal, is important, Kosofsky maintains that the most important battle right now is against the Cropsey amendment. “Everyone’s energy has got to be at the State Senate,” he said.
Even if Cropsey does not get his 26 votes, his supporters plan to mount a petition drive to get the initiative on the 2004 ballot. That, said Kosofsky, is a scary prospect. “If they decide to gather signatures for the ballot we are in for the fight of our lives,” he said.
If signatures are gathered, Cropsey and his supporters will most likely use National Petition Management, the same firm that worked on this year’s Racial Privacy Initiative in California and the same firm being used to get an anti-affirmative action measure on the ballot in Michigan. On their web site, NPM, “boasts a performance record virtually unmatched in the industry.”
“They usually gather signatures unethically,” Kosofsky maintains. He cited the 2001 battle to repeal the Huntington Woods Human Rights Ordinance in which some people who signed the petition to repeal the ordinance later came forward and said they had been deceived about the petition’s intention. NPM was the firm hired to circulate those petitions.

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