In June, Republicans on the Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee voted to bar employers from offering benefits to anyone not married or related to an employee. Although the rules don’t say “gay” anywhere in them, it’s clear who they target, according to Equality Michigan. “While these benefits are often used by both straight and gay couples, anti-gay lawmakers are specifically trying to deny gay couples the ability to care for their families,” Emily Dievendorf, director of policy for the group, said in a statement. Republicans also voted to make it illegal for any union to negotiate on benefits for unmarried couples.
Michigan already banned gay marriage in its constitution, defining marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.” The state’s law claims “a special interest in encouraging, supporting, and protecting that unique relationship in order to promote, among other goals, the stability and welfare of society and its children.” What a welcoming message to send!
The illustration accompanying this blog shows dots for the Top 10 same-sex couple hot spots in the country over the last 10 years. If you look closely you will see a dot show up in Michigan in 2010. That dot belongs to Pleasant Ridge, which ranks 7th in the country based on density of same-sex households. Also ranking high on the national list was Ferndale, while Huntington Woods, Ypsilanti and Royal Oak rounded out Michigan’s Top 5. Clearly, in spite of state policies, Southeast Oakland County represents a welcoming atmosphere.
Regardless of the difficulties in counting all same-sex couples, Gary Gates, who has researched the LGBT community for years, said the census shows a 50 percent increase in same-sex couples self-reporting nationwide, which is a huge jump that he did not anticipate. Michigan’s rate of increase was 42 percent. The Williams Institute data is not only adjusted to accommodate the 15 percent of couples who would not report, but also to accommodate the heterosexual couples who accidentally report as same-sex couples. This means that the overall increase in reported same-sex couples is quite remarkable.
The census does not ask individuals about their sexual orientation, but Equality Michigan, a statewide advocacy group, estimates at least 287,000 gay and transgender adults live in Michigan. The organization applauded the news of the increase in same-sex couples and reminded Michiganders that LGBT citizens still lack basic protections in employment and housing.
Michigan politicians speak to the need to be a state that attracts and retains young, educated individuals. But young, educated individuals repeatedly tell researchers that they are looking for places that value and promote diversity – diversity of race and ethnicity; diversity of housing options; diversity of transportation options; diversity of gender; diversity of opinions. When will we get that message!
I wanted to finish this blog with a Letter to the Editor that I sent to the Free Press, commenting on a column that followed the approval of gay marriage in New York state.
I was thrilled when New York approved Gay Marriage – one more state showing some sense – and was pleased to hear that it was Andrew Cuomo who fought the good fight. Nancy Andrew’s opinion column in Sunday’s paper added the personal touch that showed why the ruling was so important. As she said… “We could have held commitment ceremonies anywhere or gotten married in other states or countries, but it’s not the same. You go home to be married. You go home to unite your families and friends.”
As good as the column made me feel, it was her last sentence that left me with a hollow feeling. “But when we come back to Michigan where we live, we’ll still be single.” My daughter is getting married in Detroit in August. She is getting married because she has chosen a man to spend her life with. There will be a number of couples attending her ceremony who do not have that option. They are no less in love or committed to each other than my wife and I, or my daughter and her fiancee. Yet, because they are from Michigan they can only celebrate the marriage of others.
Who in Lansing will champion the cause? Where is our Andrew Cuomo?