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The summer of 2003 was a season of extraordinary gains for LGBT rights. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court decriminalized same-sex relations by striking down the Texas sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas. Ontario took a giant leap forward when the province made same-sex marriage legal – complete with the full rights and responsibilities that come with that profound commitment.
We celebrated all summer long, at Pride Parades and beachfront parties. As well we should, too! Antiquated sodomy laws, like the one in Michigan, although rarely enforced, were frequently used to justify anti-LGBT legislation and initiatives. Anti-LGBT activists would argue that we are, by our very nature, de facto felons and therefore should not be allowed to adopt, to share property rights with our partners and families, and not expect equal treatment in employment and housing.
Marriage in Ontario is wonderful. Even if marriage is not for you personally, we can all celebrate together that our neighbors to the north know that love and commitment should be treasured. They are two of our better impulses as human beings. Our country and Canada will only be stronger when all families – gay or straight – are welcomed and woven in to the fabric of our society.
But as we have celebrated our gains, anti-LGBT activists have been simmering. They know that if marriage becomes acceptable, then there are no reasons left to exclude LGBT people from American life. It has scared our community’s enemies – scared them into action.
At the federal level, there is a movement to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the institution of marriage to a contract only that between one man and one woman. It is not clear yet whether this effort will be successful, but what is clear is that the “marriage issue” will be a major factor in the 2004 elections.
Here in Michigan we face a much closer, more dangerous and more insidious threat. State Sen. Cropsey plans to introduce legislation this fall that would seek to amend the Michigan Constitution, through public referendum, to restrict marriage to only one man and one woman. Local entities – counties and cities – have recently introduced and passed resolutions supporting such a constitutional amendment. Oakland County, Jackson County, Lapeer County and the city of Sylvan Lake passed resolutions, and Traverse City may have one soon as well.
Lapeer County, though, has demonstrated the worst in public assaults on its fellow citizens, demonizing LGBT people. That county’s resolution, which passed September 18, quotes The Book of Genesis as the basis for their resolution, and argues that, “the Centers for Disease Control and the American Medical Association report that an overwhelming [sic] disproportionate number of cases of Aids [sic], Gonorrhea, Hepatitis A and B are accounted for in homosexuals and legalization of gay marriage opens the floodgate for adoption, foster-care, custody and childcare in which innocent children could be at risk.”
Our community’s enemies are taking these resolutions to local entities – city by city, county by county – and we must stand up now or else the gains of this summer will become overwhelmed by the tidal wave of the backlash. The impetus for these resolutions is coming form both local activists and from state legislators who are egging on local officials. They want to create an illusion that a groundswell of support exists for the constitutional amendment.
We must stand up now whenever and wherever these local resolutions appear. At the very least, make sure you are registered to vote – the deadline is Oct. 3 for the elections this November. Call you local county and city elected officials and ask them if they anticipate a resolution to come before their public body. If so, call the ACLU or the Triangle Foundation and speak out at your local governing body’s next meeting.
We have to stand up now or our enemies will take our silence as permission to strip away our rights. We need our allies and we need to be vocal – now more than ever.