LANSING, Mich. (BP)–Despite having enough signatures, a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in Michigan may not make it to the ballot after the state’s canvassing board deadlocked in a party-line vote Aug. 23.
The two Republicans voted to certify the signatures; the two Democrats voted against certification. The two Democratic members — Doyle O’Connor and Dorothy Jones — voted against certification despite the fact that 464,000 signatures had been deemed valid. Only 317,000 were needed. Pro-family groups in Michigan had considered the certification a mere formality.
Amendment supporters say they will file suit at the Michigan appeals court and ask the justices to overrule the canvassing board. Unless that happens, the amendment will not appear on the November ballot.
Marlene Elwell, chairwoman for the Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, called the vote by the canvassing board “outrageous.”
“For them to take that into their own hands is probably the worst example of raw politics that you want to look at,” she told Baptist Press. “We have almost 500,000 people in Michigan who signed a petition saying they want it on the ballot, and two people take it out of the hands of the people. That’s not their role anyway. The role of the board of canvassers is just to say whether or not our signatures are valid.”
Meanwhile, pro-family groups in Louisiana won a round when two state appeals courts ruled, in separate cases, that a marriage amendment in Louisiana can appear on the ballot Sept. 18. The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal gave the go-ahead to the amendment in a ruling Aug. 23, while the state’s Fourth Circuit Court issued a similar ruling Aug. 24. The case ultimately will be decided by the state Supreme Court.
Lawsuits in other states likely will follow. In Oklahoma, the American Civil Liberties Union is preparing to file a lawsuit there to keep that amendment off the November ballot. In Ohio, opponents of an amendment plan to file suit either to keep that amendment off the ballot or to delay it past the November election.
Elwell said amendment opponents in Michigan exhausted their options.
“The opposition tried to challenge us on the signatures,” she said. “They hired the best attorneys. They took a look at them and said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with these signatures.’ … Instead, they get two of the Democratic-appointed board of canvassers to say, ‘We don’t think it should be on the ballot.'”
The Michigan amendment, which bans both same-sex “marriage” and civil unions, 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.”
O’Connor, one of the Democrats who voted against certification, said the amendment jeopardizes companies giving benefits to homosexual employees.
“The state has no business and no authority telling companies what benefits they can and cannot offer,” O’Connor said, according to The Ann Arbor News.
As many as 13 states could vote on marriage amendments this year. One of those, Missouri, passed its amendment in early August with 71 percent of the vote.
State marriage amendments tie the hands of state courts, preventing Massachusetts-type rulings legalizing same-sex “marriage.” But they can be overturned in federal courts, where Nebraska’s marriage amendment is being challenged. For that reason, pro-family groups are supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit