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Same-sex marriage: A need for equality in Michigan

By HEATHER HESSELINK
Staff Writer

Who really can say who has the right to marry? There have been some strong reactions over the recent decision to overturn the ban on gay marriage in the state of Michigan and the legal wrangling that has followed.

On Saturday, March 22, it became briefly legal for same-sex couples to marry. But by the following Monday it was no longer legal. The ban was temporarily overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving many same-sex couples wondering if their recent marriages were going to be honored.

Many local community members have voiced their opinion on just what direction the court system should be taking. Local resident Kristina Namanski said: “I think it’s terrible that they passed it and then repealed it so quickly. … That would be like telling your child, ‘Sure you can have chocolate!’ and then taking it away after two bites.”

Yet that’s exactly what happened. On Friday, March 21, a U.S. District Court judge overturned the Michigan ban, making it legal for same-sex couples to marry. More than 300 couples did just that on Saturday morning, when several Michigan County Clerks’ offices opened their doors to issue the licenses. By Monday, however, same-sex couples in Michigan no longer had the right to marry as the ban was put back into effect.

According to reports, the marriages performed Saturday are legal, but the state won’t recognize them when it comes to awarding the same benefits as those received by heterosexual couples. Unlike the state, federal benefits are being extended to the couples, such as the right to file taxes jointly and receive Social Security benefits as a spouse.

Former MMCC student Jennifer Hesselink stated, “People should be allowed to marry whether they are same sex or not. No one should have the power to decide whom you wish to spend the rest of your life with. I have friends that are same sex and they have the right to marry and be happy forever together. … Times are changing and the state should follow like many other states are going. I am straight but I love all my friends no matter what their sexual orientation is. It’s the person they are not whether they are gay or straight that makes them my friends.”

It is unclear what direction the courts will take, as it now goes before a federal appeals court in Cincinnati, but it is clear that times are changing. What makes Michigan’s case so unique is that a ban on same-sex marriages was approved by 59 percent of Michigan voters in 2004, making it part of the state constitution. I’m not sure if another election were held today, Michigan voters would respond the same way.

While a re-vote isn’t likely, the hope is that the federal appeals court will make its decision quickly. The futures of some 300 same-sex couples and the dreams of many more Michigan couples are in limbo.

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