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Events in Canada, Mass., impact Mich. marriage vote

EDITORS’ NOTE: This is the second story in a five-part series examining state marriage amendment initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballot.

LANSING, Mich. (BP)–Eleven months before Massachusetts became the first American state to legalize same-sex “marriage,” Ontario became the first Canadian province to do so.

And pro-family leaders in Michigan — which borders Ontario — were watching.

Because Ontario has no residency requirement, same-sex couples in Michigan could make the short drive across the border to get a marriage license, and then sue in their home state for recognition of the license.

Events in Canada forced Michigan pro-family leaders to study the danger their neighbor posed. Events in Massachusetts led them to take action.

Pro-family groups collected 464,000 signatures valid signatures to place a state constitutional marriage amendment on the Nov. 2 ballot — much more than the 317,000 needed.

“We said, ‘Hey, there’s no point in waiting. If we’re going to protect our law we better do it now,'” Marlene Elwell, chairwoman for the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, told Baptist Press. “So that’s what pushed us. We tried to get it through the legislative process and failed, and so in April we pushed for a signature drive to get it on the ballot.”

The decision by the Massachusetts high court to legalize same-sex “marriage” has sparked a nationwide backlash. Including Michigan, 11 states will vote on marriage amendments Nov. 2. While the amendments aren’t a cure-all — they can be overturned in federal court — they do prevent state courts from issuing Massachusetts-type decisions.

Pro-family leaders assert that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the only true solution to protecting the traditional definition of marriage.

Michigan’s amendment is ahead in most polls, but not by an overwhelming majority. An EPIC/MRA poll released Oct. 22 had the amendment winning 57 percent of the vote among likely votes. That’s down from an August poll that had support at 60 percent.

A September Gallup poll actually had the amendment losing, 51-45 percent.

“Turnout’s going to be important,” Elwell said. “We have to mobilize our side. Polls show us that people in the pews are our votes. And so our whole goal is to mobilize the Christian community. If the Christian community ever woke up we’d be OK, but they are snoozing through a lot. That’s the problem.”

The amendment, which would ban both same-sex “marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions, has received a boost from Michigan’s Catholic church, which has donated $1.1 million to Citizens for the Protection of Marriage. The money has allowed the group to run television ads in Detroit and Lansing, Elwell said.

Citizens for the Protection of Marriage also has sent some 1 million pro-amendment bulletin inserts to churches across the state. Elwell said the Catholic church will be sending 600,000 letters to Catholic households.

Michigan has a law banning same-sex “marriage,” but Elwell said it is not enough.

“We need to protect the law by putting it in our Constitution,” she said. “We want to protect it from activist judges and politicians that aren’t representing the people.”

The amendment reads: “To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust