By Sharon Gittleman
When Proposal 2, came to the fore last November, placing a ban on marriage for gays in the Michigan Constitution, Attorney Judy Layne, 42, was more than troubled. She was angry.
“Modifying our Constitution to enshrine bigotry in our Constitution is a disgrace,” said Layne, a West Bloomfield resident and a member of the Dickinson Wright law firm in Bloomfield Hills. “I think it is reprehensible that this proposition was passed.”
Layne, who is straight, fought hard to defeat supporters’ push for the proposal’s passage.
“I have friends who are impacted by this. I have clients who are, too,” she said. “I do estate planning, so I see there are certain tax and other benefits that married couples are entitled to that my gay and lesbian clients don’t have. I don’t think that’s right.”
Gay people should be allowed to marry,” she said. “They should be entitled to all the rights and benefits that go along with marriage.”
Layne worked with the Coalition for a Fair Michigan, a group that banded together to try to defeat the proposal.
She hosted a fund raiser to fight against the marriage ban, went door to door passing out flyers in Livonia, worked the polls on Election Day, spoke out to the press and appeared on a local Sunday TV news show to make her case to area residents.
Her husband, son and friends joined her in her effort.
“My husband was really concerned about civil rights issues as a young man,” she said. “This was part of his nature.”
Despite their efforts, Layne said Michigan voters approved the proposal by a huge margin – a fact that left Layne discouraged and disgusted.
“I felt like people didn’t understand the relevance of what they were doing. Or at least, I hope that’s true,” she said.
She said the argument that marriage for gays and lesbians harmed families was illogical and disingenuous. Some supporters of the proposal suffered more from bigotry than true concern for family values, in Layne’s view.
Layne said since under Michigan law lesbians and gays were already banned from marrying, why vote for inserting Proposal 2, in the constitution?
Gays and lesbians aren’t the only people affected by the provision, said Layne. She expects to see lawsuits filed against educational institutions on the front page in the near future.
“The Constitution says – as a result of the passage of this proposition, you can’t recognize this union for any purpose,” she said. “People argue if a state university offers benefits to its employee’s same-sex partner they are recognizing that union for some purpose.”
While Layne believes things will get worse before they get better, she is optimistic that one day equal rights for all will be an idea that is taken for granted.
“I’m hopeful the pendulum will swing. I think it will take a long time,” she said. “There was a time when it was illegal for an African-American to marry a Caucasian person in this country, but the pendulum swung. Eventually things changed. It was after a long hard struggle.”
Layne said she was grateful she could add her voice to the calls for equal rights in Michigan.
“I am sad the situation is such that there is a need for it, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to try to help,” she said.