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Michigan lawmakers introduce marriage equality bills

Marriage equality

By Jacob CombsMichigan state seal

Michigan senators have introduced four pieces of legislation that would change the state’s laws in favor of marriage equality, according to a press release issued yesterday by Equality Michigan.

Three of the bills pertain directly to marriage equality, while the fourth is a resolution calling on the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  From the press release:

Michigan Senate Joint Resolution W, introduced by Sentor Rebekah Warren (D-Washtenaw), would allow Michigan voters to repeal the 2004 amendment to the state constitution banning same-gender relationship recognition by the government. Senate Resolution 64, introduced by Senator Bert Johnson (D-Wayne), calls on the federal government to repeal their Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Senate Bill 405, introduced by Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-Ingham), would repeal legal limitations on same-gender relationships put in place prior to the 2004 constitutional ban. Finally, Senate Bill 406, introduced by Senator Virgil Smith (D-Wayne), would recognize same-gender marriages occuring in states where such relationships are already legally recognized.

As we’ve written about before here at EqualityOnTrial, Michigan has some of the most stringent laws in the country against legal recognition of same-sex couples’ unions.  Just yesterday, we reported on one couple’s attempt to protect their relationship in spite of the state’s laws:

 One same-sex couple in Michigan has taken a novel–and perhaps futile–approach to the state’s draconian marriage equality ban.  According to, Chris Swope and Bradly Rakowski filed their marriage license with the Ingham County Register of Deeds as proof of joint custody for their house.  Under Michigan law, unmarried individuals are not entitled to inherit their partner’s assets if one of them dies.

Curtis Hertel Jr., an employee at the Ingham County Register of Deeds, went looking through Michigan’s marriage laws for such a loophole after receiving calls from gay and lesbian individuals whose partners had died.  Although Swope and Rakowski were not prohibited from filing the license by law, it remains to be seen whether the courts will recognize the document if a suit should ever be brought.  “We are breaking new ground,” Hertel told WILX.  “We’ve never shied away from controversy.”

Earlier this month, a new poll by the Chicago-based Glengariff group found that 56.6 percent of Michiganders favor equal marriage rights while 36.7 percent remain opposed to marriage equality.  Those numbers represent a remarkable increase–more than 12 percentage points–of public support for marriage equality in Michigan since last year, a shift that was attributable in large part by Republicans and independent voters changing their minds on marriage rights.  Support amongst Republicans increased more than 16 percent since last year, while independent voters’ support jumped by 14 percent.

In addition to the legislative efforts to change Michigan’s marriage laws, there is also a federal lawsuit, DeBoer v. Snyder, currently pending in a Detroit district court.  In that case, Judge Bernard Friedman invited the plaintiffs to amend their complaint–which had originally focused only on adoption rights–to challenge Michigan’s marriage equality ban.  In March, Judge Friedman placed the case on hold until a final decision by the Supreme Court in the Prop 8 case and the Windsor challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act.

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