Fellow Republicans, it is time to say congratulations to the many, many same sex couples all over Michigan who have won at least a short moment of equal access to the liberties and justice afforded to all the other adults citizens of our state.
Let us be gracious now, at least in this late stage in the game, drop the pretense and stop delaying the inevitable. There is no doubt we have written off an entire block of people from voting GOP for the foreseeable future. We deserve that. The world has changed, everyone knows it. Making people wait for their fundamental rights to live a life as they choose is just mean spirited.
Ironically enough, it is just about the ten year anniversary of the one vote I took in the Michigan legislature that haunts me the most. The one I cannot come to terms with. Every excuse I make in my head is washed away by my conscience. Others took a principled stand and I thought they were nuts. I took the easy road. They went the other way and paid dearly.
It was just about this time ten years ago we voted in the Michigan House on the question of whether to put the question of whether marriage should be between one man and one woman in Michigan's Constitution.
Let's take a moment to pause for some context. If you were to do a thorough research job of this issue you would find at this time in 2004- ONE jurisdiction (a county in New Mexico) in the entire country had issued a same-sex marriage license. This issue was barely a blip on the radar screen on the overall political debate. It was not an imminent threat to the economically savaged people of Michigan. Try to remember the 1990's...do you remember even talking about this issue? But....
There was a big problem for Republicans-what people DID want to talk about was not good..Iraq and a stalled economy.
George W. Bush had to be re-elected, Republicans had to win. We needed an issue. This apparently was the issue. 2004 may turn out to be the most expensive election for Republicans over the long haul we have ever had. It sure did not pay out dividends. It feels like we bought a mobile home on a 30 year payment plan with 50% interest.
Campaign strategists loved the demographics of the issue. Working class Catholics would turn out and they will vote for Bush....religious fundamentalist would be fired up...and on and on...
At the House of Representatives, some people thought this was THE issue to take out some vulnerable Democrats. A Constitutional Amendment would require a 2/3 vote, the pressure would be strong on members of the Democratic minority to not give those those precious decisive votes.
Looking back now, one of the things that bothers me the most about the whole episode was how dehumanizing it was. It was just politics. But it wasn't politics..these were people.
We singled out a whole group of people, most of whom just wanted to be left alone, to forcefully discriminate against them for short term political benefit.
All around us were our friends, COLLEAGUES, family members, highly valued staff members and people we care about who this clearly was going to hurt. Nobody seemed to think a thing of it. Like most people, including my constituents, I wasn't comfortable with same-sex marriage at that point but I didn't even bother to throw out a "hey we shouldn't be doing this" or "look what we are doing to the people we care about".
The vote failed. The supporters had to go spend some money to gather the signatures. Of course, those signatures were used as a database for later campaigns. A few of my Republican colleagues, Lorence Wenke and Leon Drolet paid enormously for their courage in voting no. While they finished their 6 year runs, it was with much more effort than the rest of us. One Democrat, Jennifer Elkins, lost and theoretically this may have been the deciding factor...but there were also a lot of other factors.
Oh....and the exit polls in Michigan showed those Catholics showed up and voted against Gay Marriage and then they voted.....for John Kerry.
My own particular purgatory is to be forever doomed to be on the wrong side of history. Ever since I can remember I have voraciously read history. Churchill in the wilderness years with his scrappy friends trying to rouse support to fight Hitler before the war. Lincoln, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, Charles Sumner and so many more who fought slavery, even before it was popular. The founders meeting in secret and drawing up the plans for our country, while facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Reagan and Barry Goldwater always looking for the principled stand for the long term over the expedient.
You always picture yourself cast in a role with them. Not on the other side. In my small window of making an impact, I failed to put the things I learned from reading those books to use on an important issue.
There are a lot of us in the GOP who think we get a free pass because we aren't one of THOSE people... you know.....the kind that mouthed off about it like Rick Santorum.... I just voted to put it on the ballot. This is common discussion when you get Republicans in private. It takes two seconds to realize the error in this logic, however much comfort it gives.
When we are quiet, everyone assumes that we are in 100% agreement. That creates the juggernaut that gives the "mouthy" ones the power to do the harm. Whether we are mouthy or not, the harm is still done. There are no free passes.
Would I put anything on the ballot? Of course not. I wouldn't have voted to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot. I wouldn't have voted to ban hunting on the ballot. On and on.
There can be no doubt at this point, same sex couples will have their rights recognized. It is only a matter of time.
Let's do the grown-up thing and help heal the wounds we created. At the very least, let's get the heck out of the way.