TIM SKUBICK: Popular, GOP opinions shift on gay marriage
For those of you who like mixing politics and religion, pull up a chair a sit a spell.
The state is headed for another showdown between the Catholic church and the gay community that refuses to toss in the towel on legalizing gay marriage.
The last time the two combatants were in the political ring, the church won and not in a squeaker either.
The 2004 statewide to ban gay marriage was inserted into the state constitution with close to 60 percent of the vote. That was after the early polls hinted 60 percent would approve it rather then rejected it.
Ah, but the times they are a changing, contends Emily Dievendorf who is piecing together a 25 member coalition that aims to slap this back on the 2016 ballot. This time, she predicts it’s the church that would go down for the count.
She contends there is a nationwide mood shift as more and more states legalize gay marriage and common folks discover the world did not end. She points to a complete flip-flop in Michigan with 58 percent of voters now backing it.
Gary Glenn, a coauthor of the original ban, dismisses this claiming its an “echo chamber of response to the news media constantly telling us that everyone everywhere has suddenly changed their minds overnight.”
Undaunted, Ms. Dievendorf has set a cool $12 million budget to collect 600,000 names to place this on the ballot and then prove to Mr. Glenn that he is wrong.
She concedes that fighting the church is something she must address. In what amounts to whistling through the graveyard, she points to a survey suggesting 59 percent of the rank and file Catholics are on her side.
Only problem is, they don’t set the policy. The Pope. et.al. do. And the hierarchy will find the money to beat this back and the congregations won’t get a vote.
However in a recent article in the Detroit News, a headline suggested the Pope was “diplomatically” wading into the debate and is not interested in making “head-line grabbing public comments on hot-button current issues” which this one certainly is.
At the end of the day, it would be astounding if the church turned its back on the Bibical teaching that all this is a sin and not a venal one either.
This new pro-gay marriage coalition, yet to be formally announced, has other challenges.
Traditionally in the African-American community gay marriage has not been warmly embraced. In fact, Ms. Dievendorf has discovered that when she compares her movement to the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s, she gets a lot of looks. She explains many in that community do frame this as a “fairness” question but are not enamored with linking it to the fight for racial equality.
The last presidential election results have also renewed her hope that some Republicans may joint this crusade. Maybe you’ve heard the chatter that the GOP wants to build a bigger tent, with room for Hispanics, Asians and even gays. Heck, Oakland County executive Brooks Patterson has been preaching that for years but the choir has not been responding in Michigan.
“The party is stagnant,” Ms. D. argues so when she makes the pitch that gay marriage is good economic policy, she also slips in a pitch that this is one way to expand that tent.
Some Republicans in this town are not slamming the door shut when she knocks. The House GOP Speaker even admits he is looking into this desire to find a balance between the rights of gays and the rights of the religious community. He’s not there yet and may never get there.
Nobody in their wildest imagination expects this GOP legislature to place this on the ballot, which is why the petition drive is being pieced together even as you read.
Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.