Just a day after Michigan lifted a ban on same-sex marriage, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had the ban reinstated until Wednesday. The turn around on the issue is the result of Michigan Attorney General Bill Shuette who filed an emergency request to have the order stayed and appealed. This development leaves the legality of same-sex marriages that took place over the weekend up in the air.
Shuette stated that the residents of Michigan made it clear nearly a decade ago that diversity in parenting, a reference to a child having a female mother and a male father, is what they consider to be best for their children, and the voters had this decision placed into the state constitution. This brings up the issue of whether or not the federal government has the right to overrule laws created by state legislatures, which if the Constitution is upheld, it does not. The Tenth Amendment outlines the powers held by the federal government, and any of those powers not present on the list are reserved for the states. Any time the government steps over its constitutional boundaries, it is illegal. If the state has decided not to allow same-sex marriage, then the federal government must, according to the Constitution, respect that decision.
Many who participated in same-sex marriage in Michigan on Saturday are not surprised by the ban being reinstated. One of the possible ramifications for the appeal is that same-sex couples may not be eligible for full benefits, although some benefits at the federal level might still be available to them in the mean time. While some couples may fear this could result in their marriage not being legal, most feel confident that the decision will come down in their favor.
The issue of same-sex marriage is one that is hotly debated, and usually ends up in passionate arguments from individuals on both sides. The important thing to keep in mind here is not whether or not the actions taken by Shuette and the states are moral, but whether or not they are constitutionally valid. It would seem that each state has the right to draft and create legislation regulating marriage, either in favor of same-sex unions or opposed. Due to the protection provided to the states by the Tenth Amendment, the federal government should not be allowed to overturn the law put in place by the legislature in Michigan.
If same-sex couples want to have the right to get married, it looks like taking the battle to the state level would be the constitutionally recommended course of action. It is traditionally much easier to change things at the state level, as there is a lot of bureaucratic red tape to cut through when dealing with the federal government. Changing things at the state level prevents the federal government from gaining too much power over the individual states, which then results in the rights of all citizens being protected, rather than a majority being given the authority to trample the rights of the minority. The same-sex marriage ban being reinstated in Michigan is proof that this issue is not going away any time soon, and will play a large roll in political elections for years to come.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell
The Columbus Dispatch