So then this is the question: how can a couple be both legally married and yet legally denied the benefits that legally married folks are supposed to get? Especially when other legally married folks in that state are enjoying those very same benefits without a hassle?
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who formerly referred to himself as “one tough nerd” during his first gubernatorial campaign, will, I am confident, soon be known as Mr. Wizard. Why? Because it is Gov. Rick Snyder who has voluntarily placed himself in the position of having to defend this glaringly indefensible position. And if, through some miracle, this perverse position of his does manage to remain standing after being subjected to more than 30 seconds of semi-intelligent scrutiny by a bored five-year-old, then we should all prepare to bow down low before His Twisted Majesty Mr. Wizard and plant a big wet kiss on those adorable clown shoes of his.
So let’s back up, just to provide a bit of context. Last Friday, March 21, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman issued a flamethrower of an opinion that not only (temporarily) cleared the decks for same sex marriage in Michigan and overturned the voter-approved ban, but also leveled same sex marriage opponents like a newly sharpened scythe swinging its way through dry wheat. Or, if you wanna be a bit less poetic about it, he made them look like a bunch of idiots. Not that this was necessarily a difficult task, but it was fun to witness nevertheless.
An estimated 300 same sex couples managed to get themselves hitched after Friedman’s ruling, but then the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay on Saturday, March 22, blocking any more same sex marriages in Michigan until a ruling is made on the issue. Actually the stay was originally supposed to only extend to Wednesday, March, 26, but it has since been extended again until who-knows-when. In a courageous response to the ruling by the Appeals Court, Gov. Wizard proclaimed that the same sex marriages were legal, but that the State of Michigan would not be granting these legally married couples the benefits to which they are legally entitled because…ummm….
“I would not want to be one of the governor’s lawyers trying to defend that,” said Ken Mogill, co-counsel for the two Hazel park nurses whose lawsuit prompted all this activity.
They can delay and roadblock all they want, but in the end I just don’t see how we lose this argument.
Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson had a pretty accurate take on the whole issue:
I’m not sure why Attorney General Bill Schuette thinks it’s his duty — or even a good idea — to fight to the last for invidious discrimination against gay people in Michigan, but it’s one of the most pathetic examples of moral leadership I’ve witnessed.
Schuette got slammed last week for his clownish legal defense of Michigan’s gay marriage ban in U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s court. Friedman essentially labeled Schuette’s case absurd: a bizarre and unsubstantiated hodgepodge of attempts to paint gay citizens as deviants who shouldn’t be allowed to raise children. Friedman didn’t buy any of it and, in fact, didn’t even let the state examine its first witness because his credentials were so flimsy.
That really should have been the ballgame.
Why? Because Friedman’s opinion joins the chorus of an emerging majority in both federal and state courts (most important, at the U.S. Supreme Court) that has rejected the notion that fear, hatred or religious disapproval of homosexuals is sufficient justification for government to treat them differently.
From a legal perspective, that’s extremely important.
Indeed it is.
Keith Owens (AKA Black Liberal Boomer) is a Detroit-based writer who has worked for The Detroit Free Press, Detroit’s alternative newsweekly the Metro Times, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, and other newspapers. He was also a nationally syndicated columnist with Universal Press Syndicate for three years beginning in 1993.