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CITY PULSE — Homosexual Activists Protest Michigan Court Ruling on Government Benefits

May 23, 2007

Homosexual activists rallied at the state Capitol Tuesday to protest a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in February that public employers may not recognize homosexual relationships among government employees for the purpose of providing taxpayer-financed spousal benefits…

“Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for the (homosexual) Triangle Foundation, exhorted the crowd: ‘Are you tired of a polluted political atmosphere caused by the toxic diatribes of Gary Glenn and the American Family Association?’ The crowd replied with a resounding ‘yes.’

…Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan and co-author of the 2004 (Marriage Protection Amendment), feels that the outcome lives up to its original intent. ‘The issue is about government recognition,’ he said in an interview last week. ‘And government recognition includes taxpayer-provided benefits.’ …Glenn cited an October 2004 Detroit Free Press poll taken before the proposal’s passage. At the time, 53 percent of those polled approved of the proposal, and 54 percent opposed allowing government and university employers to provide benefits to same-sex couples. According to Glenn, this proves that voter intent was parallel with the authors’ intent and that voters saw the proposal as a way to prohibit such benefits.”


CITY PULSE
Lansing, Michigan
May 23, 2007

Rapper plea: ‘Where homophobia ends, true freedoms begin’

by Clay Taylor and Wes Holing

The Michigan Supreme Court will soon decide on the ultimate fate of 2004’s Proposal 2, the so-called gay marriage amendment, and its opponents are not going quietly.

At a rally at the state Capitol Tuesday, about 100 people heard Lansing resident Dennis Finceth tell them, “There’s an awful lot of good families that I know and partners that I’m acquainted with who have left Michigan (because of the amendment), and it’s a shame to lose those people over something so regressive.�

The University of Michigan Social Workers, Michigan Equality, Triangle Foundation and several other groups organized the rally to kick off an effort to educate Michiganders about the adverse effects of Proposal 2 on gay couples who stand to lose domestic-partner health benefits.

The ballot initiative passed with 59 percent of the vote, defining marriage only as “the union of one man and one woman.� It also says that such a union will be “the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.�

State Attorney General Mike Cox has argued that the language makes domestic-partner benefits for same sex couples illegal. The State Court of Appeals agreed with Cox, overturning a ruling by Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk that would have kept same-sex benefits intact.

At stake primarily are health benefits at MSU, U of M, LCC and several other state universities and colleges. But some governments also offer them to employees, including Ingham County.

Ingham County Commissioner Todd Tennis told the crowd, “I think I can speak on behalf of all my fellow county commissioners when I say that Ingham County is going to do everything in its power to continue to offer domestic partner benefits in the future and to fight this horrible decision.�

Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for the Triangle Foundation, exhorted the crowd: “Are you tired of a polluted political atmosphere caused by the toxic diatribes of Gary Glenn and the American Family Association?�.

The crowd replied with a resounding “yes.�

“Are you ready to proclaim that children do not need protection from homosexuals, but from homophobic zealots that thrive on panic and fear?� Kosofsky called. This time, an even louder “yes� answered him.

Offering a decidedly untraditional approach was speaker Kevin Correa, a full-time staff member at the University of Michigan’s LGBT Affairs office. When he took the podium, he rapped.

“I’m saying all I can so that justice can win, where homophobia ends, true freedoms begin,� Correa said. “Our tastes may be different but we’re humans the same, so just be real with us, stop playing these games.�

The rally was followed by a march to the Hall of Justice to present a resolution denouncing the early February Court of Appeals decision.

Derek Smiertka, executive director of Michigan Equality, a statewide gay rights advocacy group based in Lansing, said a petition on its Web site opposing the court decision has 1,225 signatures so far.

As opponents wait for the State Supreme Court to take up the case, they are arguing that the voters did not intend to end domestic-partner benefits for public employees when they banned same-sex marriage. “Intent� can be a reason to overturn a law.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan and co-author of the 2004 ballot proposal, feels that the outcome lives up to its original intent. “The issue is about government recognition,� he said in an interview last week. “And government recognition includes taxpayer-provided benefits. One does not require the other.�

Glenn cited an October 2004 Detroit Free Press poll taken before the proposal’s passage. At the time, 53 percent of those polled approved of the proposal, and 54 percent opposed allowing government and university employers to provide benefits to same-sex couples. According to Glenn, this proves that voter intent was parallel with the authors’ intent and that voters saw the proposal as a way to prohibit such benefits.

However, Doug Meeks, president of Michigan Equality, disagrees. He feels that this was not what voters asked for, nor should the amendment be read in such a way. In a May 16 interview on “City Pulse on the Air� on WDBM-FM, Meeks said, “The proponents of the amendment basically had gone out and told voters that domestic partner benefits would not be affected by this proposal.�

Nancy English, Michigan Equality’s executive assistant, agrees, pointing out the proposal’s supporters have been inconsistent in their claims. She cited a quote from Marlene Elwell of Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, a group supporting the amendment. In October 2005, Elwell told USA Today, “This has nothing to do with taking benefits away. This is about marriage between a man and a woman.�

English also cited Glenn himself in an interview with the Ann Arbor News, stating that public and private employers could continue to offer domestic partner benefits.

http://www.lansingcitypulse.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1092&Itemid=29

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