Anti-equality backlash in Michigan

Ding dong! The wicked reverend is dead! Fred “god hates f**s” Phelps died on March 19. Unfortunately, the spirit of hatred that Phelps embodied is alive and well among Michigan politicians.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Tea Party bigot, refused to accept the March 21 ruling of federal Judge Bernard Friedman that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Schuette appealed the ruling to the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals and is ignoring 20,000 signatures on a petition asking him to withdraw the appeal.

Judge Friedman denied Schuette’s request for an immediate stay of the ruling, which would have prevented any same-sex marriages from occurring. In the absence of a stay, four county clerks issued marriage licenses on March 22, a Saturday, when their offices would normally be closed. Over 300 same-sex couples took advantage of this narrow window of opportunity and tied the knot.

At the end of the day, however, the Court of Appeals temporarily stayed Friedman’s ruling, preventing any more marriages from being performed. A three-judge panel voted 2 to 1 to extend the stay indefinitely until the issue is decided again by the higher court.

Gov. Rick Snyder then put a damper on any celebrations planned by the 300-plus otherwise happy couples. While acknowledging that they are now legally married, he has ruled them ineligible for any state benefits available to other married partners. Snyder has ignored the decision by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to recognize the marriages at the federal level. More lawsuits, on top of the original lawsuit challenging the Michigan Marriage Amendment, are expected.

Schuette, having failed miserably in his attempt to build a case around “the procreative function of marriage,” is now attempting to construct a voting rights case. The attorney general is claiming that overturning the amendment would violate the rights of the voters who passed the marriage ban 10 years ago. Schuette’s voting rights advocacy, however, does not extend to African-American voters in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor and other communities. Their democratic rights were stolen under the dictatorial Emergency Manager Law, passed and signed by Snyder after a majority of Michigan voters repealed an earlier ­version.

While disappointed by the stay, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who brought the suit with the aim of becoming joint legal parents to the three children they are raising, are determined to fight this civil rights battle all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

They have good reason to view this setback as temporary. It wasn’t that long ago that Massachusetts stood alone in allowing same-sex marriages. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer movement, however, must stay in the streets until every last vestige of bigotry and discrimination is, like the wicked reverend, buried in a deep, cold grave.