Lawmakers in two rust belt states say
it's time to repeal gay marriage bans.
Both Ohio and Michigan voters agreed in
2004 to define marriage as a heterosexual union in their respective
constitutions. Ohio voters also banned recognition of any union that
“intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or
effect of marriage.” Now, five years later, measures have been
introduced in both legislatures to repeal those bans.
Michigan Speaker Pro Tempore Pam
Byrnes, a Democrat from Lyndon Township, first announced her bill at
a June Gay Pride Parade in Lansing.
“The time has come,” Byrnes told
the Michigan Messenger in June. “I think attitudes are
changing. We are seeing other states flip on this issue especially
when you get the former Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledging
same-sex marriages, then I think we definitely see a change in
attitude and it's time to revisit this.”
Byrnes' measure would also recognize
gay marriages performed outside Michigan, in effect legalizing gay
marriage so long as couples are willing to marry in a state where it
is legal. Currently, five states recognize such unions:
Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, Connecticut and, starting on January 1,
New Hampshire. Byrnes has also promised to introduce a gay marriage
bill, as well.
On November 3, voters delivered a mixed
message on gay nuptials when they approved an “everything but
marriage” domestic partnership law in Washington State but “vetoed”
a gay marriage law approved by lawmakers in Maine.
No state has yet to reverse a
constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The first state to
try will likely be California, where gay rights groups are
considering putting the issue back on the ballot either in 2010 or
In Ohio, Representative Tyrone K.
Yates, a Democrat from Cincinnati, introduced a similar repeal
measure on Tuesday.
The lawmaker told the Cincinnati
Enquirer that Ohio's gay marriage ban was hurting the state
economically: “It's causing us economic and social harm in our
ability to attract and keep people here.”
Both resolutions, however, face an
uphill battle to reach the ballot box. Making the ballot in Ohio and
Michigan requires the approval of both legislative chambers; Michigan
requires a two-thirds majority vote, and Ohio three-fifths. Ohio's
Republican-led Senate is not considered to be friendly on gay rights.
A gay protections bill easily approved by House lawmakers in
September is feared dead in the Senate, which has yet to assign the
bill a hearing.
The gay rights group Basic
Rights Oregon is also pursuing a repeal effort in Oregon. The
group launched a petition drive last week to put the issue before
voters in 2012.