Sitting here a week and a half after the election, I am still feeling great happiness over the states that have passed marriage quality. This is an amazing step forward for LGBT Americans. On November 6, the citizens of Maine, Maryland and Washington decided that they wanted their state to practice equal rights. For the first time in history, marriage equality has been approved through a popular vote. This is a sign that Americans not only understand the importance of equality, but are also willing to stand up and say that they want their state to practice equality.
As thrilled as I am that 9 states now have marriage equality, I wonder why other states are basically at a standstill. Michigan, the state I live in, is an example of a state that is showing very little progress in terms of marriage equality. In 2004 Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage as well as civil unions. This passed with 58.6% of the vote. A poll was then conducted in 2009 that showed that 63.7% of Michigan residents supported civil unions and 46.5% supported full marriage rights.
If a poll conducted in 2009 showed that a large percentage of Michigan residents supported same-sex rights, why was there nothing on the ballot this November? I searched the ballot, did my research months before election day and not one word was said about voting for marriage rights in Michigan.
The argument could be made that since Michigan has a Republican governor, we aren’t progressing towards LGBT rights as quickly as we could be. In my opinion, I don’t think this is the case. Governor Snyder has been in office since 2010 and he, in my opinion, is a rather progressive Republican. Within the first year of him being governor, he started working towards allowing all LGBT individuals who work for the state government to be allowed to extend their health insurance benefits to their partners. This was turned down, but not because Snyder was not in support of this legislation, but because, at the time, it would have cost tax payers too much money to extend the benefits. As disappointed as I was to hear the final decision, I understood his reasons behind it. Michigan was hit particularly hard in 2008/2009 with the crash of the economy and the almost collapse of the auto industry.
Governor Snyder is also a businessman. He understands money. Another reason, in my opinion, that he would support marriage equality would be because it would bring the state an increase in revenue, as it did for New York. According to the Huffington Post, New York City alone received a $259 million boost in their economy one year after passing their same-sex marriage law. In my opinion, Gov. Snyder would see this as a huge benefit to a still struggling state.
Why then has Michigan progressed very little towards LGBT equality? There is a progressive governor and the state typically leans Democrat, yet there is no state laws protecting same sex couples. In my opinion, I feel that it is because the residents who are in support of LGBT rights need to mobilize more and work together. There are wonderful organizations such as Equality Michigan, but there needs to be more work towards equality. 5 years ago, I used to be extremely active in the Michigan chapter of the Human Rights Campaign. Unfortunately since then, the Michigan chapter has weakened and is not as active in promoting LGBT rights, at least not in the Metro Detroit area.
The LGBT citizens and LGBT allies in Michigan, as well as every other state that is at a standstill, needs to stand up and fight. We need to mobilize and gather together and tell our legislators that we are not going to sit back and keep our mouths shut anymore. We need to tell the politicians at each of the capitals that as long as you make us follow the same laws as everyone else and as long as you make us pay taxes, we demand to have the same rights as everyone else.
My sincere hope is that when the 2016 general elections come, every state that kept quiet in 2012 will have marriage equality up for vote. The 3 states that passed marriage equality this year has proven that Americans are not only ready for LGBT rights, but are wanting these rights. It was not just LGBT Americans who voted for marriage equality in those states, it was also LGBT allies. It was everyday people opening their mouths and telling their government that everyone is equal, not just a part of their residents.
Lets all take a pledge that between today and November 2016, we will work towards marriage equality by standing up and speaking louder then ever before. People are listening now and are willing to hear what we have to say. I sincerely hope that in 2016, Darren and I will be able to sign a marriage certificate. Not sign one in a state that allows it, but in the state in which we not only live, but love.