I’m happy to say that marriage equality is gaining actual legal traction, and thankfully general public opinion has followed suit. But great as they are, the recent wins signal more of a halfway point than a conclusion. There are plenty of regions that still have legal obstacles in place for same sex marriages, even if they were legally married in another state.
I just read this article on same sex marriage recognition by the state in Michigan, or the lack thereof. The Secretary of State’s office officially confirmed that state employees must deny service if anything “led [the employee] to believe” that an individual was in a same sex marriage.
The way the policy is setup opens a rabbit hole since an interpretation that someone is in a same sex marriage is fully vulnerable to inbuilt biases on the part of the state employee. Recognition of marriage is far from a life or death issue, but imagine needing to see your partner in a hospital and needing to explain your situation to an employee that is legally required to deny you.
According to the article, the law is a relic of 2004 during the Bush election, when then RNC head Ken Mehlman pushed for laws banning gay marriage in several states, including Michigan, to improve Republican turnout for Bush. But this particular story does have a happier ending.
Fortunately, Mr. Mehlman has gone on to change his tune and play for the good guys. He publicly apologized for his actions under the Bush Administration and has since used his unique position as a highly ranked Republican equal rights supporter to promote issues such as California’s Prop 8 and advocate same-sex marriage to Republicans.
He currently works for Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts (KKR) as a public affairs chief after finishing his career in politics, but still advocates for marriage equality in an effort to undo his work with the RNC. It’s an admirable turnaround, and it makes me optimistic that laws like this one that showed up as a result of his actions during the RNC can be repealed with as much zeal.