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Posted on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:25 a.m.

Irwin and Zemke sponsoring legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Michigan

By Ryan J. Stanton

State Reps. Jeff Irwin and Adam Zemke, both Democrats from Ann Arbor, have joined other House Democrats in announcing a package of bills to allow same-sex marriage in Michigan.

The announcement came Monday morning with the U.S. Supreme Court due to release a ruling on Proposal 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, two cases dealing with marriage equality.


Jeff Irwin


Adam Zemke

The primary sponsors of the four pieces of legislation are Irwin; Sam Singh, D-East Lansing; Rudy Hobbs, D-Southfield; and Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek. Zemke is a chief co-sponsor.

"It's time for Michigan to stop discriminating against the thousands of couples who want to marry and enjoy the same recognition and benefits for themselves and their children that come with marriage, and that my wife, Kathryn, and our kids enjoy," Irwin said. "The legislation that we propose today represents the next step in the fight to ensure all citizens are equal in Michigan."

The first piece in the legislative package is a house joint resolution that amends Michigan's constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which was banned in Michigan in 2004.

The second bill recognizes same-sex marriages that were licensed in other states. The third bill makes other changes directly to Michigan's marriage laws regarding who is allowed to marry, and the final bill calls on the U.S. Congress to repeal DOMA.

Zemke said denying marriage equality is bad for attracting and retaining young talent and sends a message to the rest of the world that Michigan is not a forward-thinking, competitive state.

"That's not the Michigan I know and love, and it's time for a change," said Zemke, emphasizing that younger generations are showing leadership in marriage equality.

"I am a proud millennial, and today, I stand wearing that badge even prouder because more than 70 percent of millennials said that they support the rights of same-sex couples to marry under the law," Zemke said. "Our generation is our nation's leader on this issue."

In May, Zemke introduced House Bill 4742, which would reverse Public Act 297 — the state's ban on extending health benefits to domestic partners of public employees. Many Democrats and gay rights supporters have called the state's ban discriminatory and overreaching, while some Republicans argue it's a matter of fiscal responsibility and it reflects the will of Michigan voters who decided in 2004 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, also announced the introduction of legislation in the Senate last month to remove Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.

The legislation followed a new poll by the Glengariff Group showing 57 percent of Michigan voters now support gay marriage, a 13-point jump from a year ago.

"The people of Michigan have spoken loud and clear, and they are fundamentally supportive of the idea that every person in our state should have the freedom to marry the person they love," Warren said. "This legislation will not only allow all couples to make a lifetime commitment to one another, but also extend important legal protections to them and their children."

The measure to amend the state's Constitution to remove the prohibition on same-sex marriage would require two-thirds support in the House and Senate to make the statewide ballot.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Patrick Maurer

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 4:04 a.m.

I'd like to see this issue decided by a ballot of the voters. Not by politicians.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

Thanks to our wonderful legislators for this important an heroic act.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 6:17 p.m.

Sarcasm is an ugly thing


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

Sarcasm doesn't look good on you


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 5:10 a.m.

What part of the constitution did Reps. Irwin and Zemke not read. You cannot overturn a constitutional amendment that the voters overwhelmingly passed and along political ideological racial and religious lines. It take a vote of the people to overturn this and these two lawmakers are wasting their time and everybody else's by taking up this issue. There are far bigger issues involving justice than this perversion.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Bob, I thought I read somewhere that it would void our ban on the practice but would not instantly make same sex marriages legal in the state. That the federal government would have to recognize legal marriages from other states no matter where they lived.

Basic Bob

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

if the supreme court rules against california, it sets a precedent. that does not instantly invalidate our constitution.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

When I say "sure they can" - I mean, I'm fairly certain that if the SCOTUS rules California's ban unconstitutional, our ban instantly becomes void.

Rork Kuick

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

Reread the last sentence of the article, which admits constitutional change requires a public vote too, but didn't get too detailed about it perhaps.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

Sure they can, especially if the Amendment is ruled unconstitutional at a federal level. What is more important than civil rights?

Stan Hyne

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

I am a conservative but a couple of thoughts come to mind. One everyone talks about sex. Is marriage only about sex? Second could two elderly sisters marry, share their house, expenses, and be able to help decide on health matters etc. just like husband and wife do? Would that be evil?


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 3:42 a.m.

Only in Oz could two people marry, one a state employee with excellent medical benefits and the other making $50 per hour, and end up in poverty.

Jake C

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:10 a.m.

A man and a woman decide to marry. One works for the state and gets platinum health care benefits for her and her husband. The husband works as an independent contractor making $50 an hour and pays nothing for his health care. He puts a family into poverty because she undercuts the cost the employer would pay a person with health insurance. Would that be fair?

Basic Bob

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

Two elderly sisters decide to marry. One works for the state and gets platinum health care benefits for her and her sister. The other works as an independent contractor making $50 an hour and pays nothing for her health care. She puts a family into poverty because she undercuts the cost the employer would pay a woman with health insurance. Would that be fair?

Dog Guy

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

Let us recognize the levels of courage and principle it took for these Ann Arbor politicians to sponsor same-sex marriage bills at this time!


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.



Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

If every gay person in the state got married next week, do you know what would change in the lives of heterosexual marriages...NOTHING! No real conservative should object to two adults entering into a contract, it is none of The States business who you have sex with or choose to spend your life with. Marriage has nothing to do with procreation, that is sex.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.

I would like to read the conservative rational for not allowing two adults to enter into a contract. I would also like to read how the marriages of thousands of gay people in other states has effected you and your family.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

At this point why have any limits? A man and woman, or man and two women, or 3 women and 1 man, and maybe more? Marriage has been reduced to nothing more than an issue by one party against another. Why do we even waste our time with labels like "men" and "women"....The whole thing will be settled by God on "his or her" terms anyway....


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 1:10 p.m.

Here's why Sonny....because cat's cannot consent, they are animals

Freight Train

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

Ha! That's a good one SonnyDog. Because the number of people advocating for your scenario are? That's right - zero. Way to build a constructive argument.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

Why can't crazy Aunt Sadie marry her twenty two cats? How unfair is it to keep her from marrying her cats!!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8 p.m.

This is all about fairness. It shouldn't be about religion, but there are many religious gay couples, so I guess it does figure into the conversation, if not the law. To the person who asks "Can reality be altered?" My answer is that I sure hope so: Just think, women were earning their Doctorates, but weren't allowed to vote before 1920, that reality changed. Reality changed with the passing of child-labor laws, reality changed with the Wright brothers, etc., etc Now that I think about it, reality changes so fast it makes my head spin. Let's keep making things better!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

God created ADAM & EVE, NOT Adam & Steve. Leave it to the Democrats to screw everything up!


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:47 a.m.

It will be interesting to see what this country looks like once God has been removed from it along with the teachings of the Bible. Just look overseas where the Christian religion is being displaced. Women will lose all of the rights they have fought for, men will regain there monopoly regarding the power structure in the family; maybe there is some good that will come of it.................


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 6:40 p.m.

@Bubba43 - It's scary to me that in a country that is supposed to have church and state separated, you and many conservatives still use religious arguments to defend your legal views and proudly condemn democrats for setting the religion aside.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

True, but didn't Adam and Eve only have sons? So, tell me again how the math works on that?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

leave it to bigotry, and the bible to spew hate unto others. i dont understand folks that have this sort of hangup with gay people. then reference the book that is claimed to give them a "moral compass".


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:43 p.m.

dsponini : "God is a fairy tale, just like the bible" Some people feel the same way as gay marriage, can't all just get along. When you attack someone's God how much support do you think you'll get for gay marriage?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

If there is a God, She created Adam, Eve, and Steve. Or, if you want to look at it this way, as were are all descended from the same two people, it's all incest anyway, so relax.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

What do Democrats have to do with this? Democrats are FOR equality Ignorance much?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

God is a fairy tale, just like the bible


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

I think the State of New York who last year approved marriage equality for ALL (not just a special right for heterosexual couples) got it right, though redundant in their extra amendment they added to exempt churches from performing them should they choose not to. I say redundant because the First Amendment of our US Constitution expressly grants us the freedom to worship freely right after it prohibits Congress from making any law that is based on a religious test. So I want to know why some churches and synagogues who DO wish to exercise their right to marry whomever they wish (which for some is all couples) are being denied the legal right to do so (some do it, anyway, and unfortunately those marriages don't come with any of the thousands of benefits and protections that a legal one would). If you are against marriage equality for all and are part of a church that feels the same way, no worries, your church will never have to marry someone it doesn't believe in. So no one would be violating your religious freedom but right now as it stands, many peoples' are being violated.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:37 p.m.

70% of millennials also support 52 weeks of vacation a year.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

Well dsponini, tough, get over it... We're just now seeing the results of "everyone is a winner, we don't need competition in school." Along with that, the entitlement that these millennials feel they deserve...


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Sorry me this is no joking matter and your "joke" is not appreciated


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 10:06 a.m.

Bwahahaaa, what, can't you people take a joke? Ha ha ha, get over it/yourselves. Its funny how you people always like to make fun of fox news when in fact it is the liberal media who has been twisting facts lately in support of Obama... wake up.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

Proof of that statement or you're just making up stuff ala FAUX News


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

Oh, you think it's only millennials who support same-sex marriage?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

It is very apparent that many are sying it's marriage and nothing less than marriage. What is wrong with a legal union to give the "couple" specific rights? Please explain your reasoning.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

Because separate but equal has worked so well in the past....


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:17 p.m.

The only thing that guarantees the same package of rights, across the board, is the same legal status. Mind explaining your reasoning for why that's a problem? When you do, please keep in mind that, given the strong 1st Amendment protections churches have in matters of religious practice, no law will ever compel a church to marry a same-sex couple if that is against their beliefs.

Anne Gray

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

I see how it is more fiscally responsible to refuse to let same-sex couples pay marriage license fees, and to prevent them from covering each other with insurance benefits, thereby increasing emergency room costs across the state. No, wait, that makes no sense. House Republicans, you make NO sense! California reports a nice government and domestic economy boost from same-sex marriage.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

you speak of fiscal responsibility and Comifornia in the same paragraph?? LOL! what, they're over 600,000,000,000 in debt if you add it all up from cities/state??


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

Ms. Gray - Prop 8 ended it in California. I hope the supreme court fixes that, but I doubt it will.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

Unfortunately, history has shown repeatedly that prejudiced people attach a value to their prejudices, and will happily throw money away in order to continue discriminating.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

Oh, all you religious folks are happy to give same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage as long as it isn't called that? Then why did you pass a law here in Michigan that EXPLICITLY FORBIDS GIVING SAME-SEX COUPLES THOSE BENEFITS?


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Seldon, whooooa, slow down! I'm religious and I fully support marriage equality. I NEVER voted for this ban, ever. some of my dearest friends are in the LGBT community. sign me, Straight but NOT narrow:)


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

Darn right same-sex couples need the full legal protection that comes with marriage. The conservative religious community has shown again and again how willing they are to knife them in the back.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Exactly seldon! Spot on analogy


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

Kudos, Adam. Proud to have you as a local representative. Who would have thunk you'd turn out so progressive after driving that gas guzzling 5.slow back in high-school, haha.

Daniel Piedra

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

Homosexuals believe they have a "right" to marry. But the problem is that homosexuals cannot be married, because marriage is between one man and one woman. It is simply impossible to make it any other way, even if there is an arbitrary distinction created by a law. Even so, such a law does not and cannot change what marriage truly is, just like we cannot create a law that declares the sport of wrestling is actually ballet. Such a law can be passed, and citizens can be reconditioned -- through coercion if necessary -- to accept that wrestling is ballet. But the underlying idea, the underlying essence, cannot be changed. For marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the the purpose of pro-creation and complementarity. Can reality be altered?


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Daniel-- what of the couples who, for personal/health reasons decide to remain childless? is their marriage invalid in your eyes? reality CAN be altered.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:11 p.m.

Seems like the impossible is possible! I know, shocking. But by some magic 12 states are doing the impossible and allowing same sex marriages. Contrary to popular belief, they've done so without opening a black hole of doom.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:08 p.m.

a singlet and a leotard/tutu are really not that different. ive seen circus bears wear both!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

Let's make the law that says homosexuals can marry and then we'll see what happens.

Freight Train

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

Daniel, you live in a reality that is viewed through a Judeo/Christian lens. There are many other lenses and perspectives. My wife and I were not married in a religious ceremony. You may not think we have a "marriage", but it does not bother me one bit. It is recognized as such everywhere. Your opinion only matters in the ballot booth.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

Why was my comment removed? "For marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the the purpose of pro-creation and complementarity. " This made me throw up in my mouth a little. Nothing in that comment deserved your heavy handed censoring!

Anne Gray

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

I know multiple married couples who have kids and beautiful families, where the couple is same-sex. One of these families is related to us. Their daughter is seven now, and the boys (twins) are four. You are in denial of this reality, and threaten my family members by denying them equal rights and recognition before the law. They cannot even adopt each others' children, which were all fathered by the same open donor. This is terrible. Marriage is the union of two consenting adults for the purpose of creating a family, whether through procreation, adoption, or just loving partnership. Your viewpoint is not definitive and has never been definitive for all people.

Willie Reid

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Daniel, How do you feel about non-religious hetero-sexual marriages, marriages that weren't performed in the church?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Daniel, but WHERE did your definition of what "marriage truly is" come from? A fictional book written long ago out of fear of the unknown? As a society of humans, we can define any word to mean whatever we want.

Basic Bob

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

My state representative believes that reality can be legislated. He will have an easier time getting a majority of judges to agree than a 2/3 majority of voters in a statewide election.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5 p.m.

I think you are already living in an altered reality!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

It's only a matter of time in all 50 states.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

Maybe not in yours; I don't know how old you are. But I expect to see it within 10 years just based on the age breakdown on surveys on the topic.

Basic Bob

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

But perhaps not in this lifetime.

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

Call it anything but "marriage" and I would support all the same privileges and recognition as marriage.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

-sanctioned union of persons who commit to one another, forming a familial and economic bond: marriage. Accurate. Civil union: dodge. In order to keep from offending those that hate political correctness we should have separate but equal?


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

Ahhh yes, separate but equal. While we're at it, why don't we bring back African American only water fountains......


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:43 p.m.

Really? How did you vote on the law in 2004 which robbed partners in civil unions of benefits?

Usual Suspect

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.



Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

Why? What's the word "marriage" got that makes it only apply to chicks and dudes?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

If one wanted to do this in a manner that respected everyone, the state would stop recognizing marriage and instead recognize civil unions, regardless of the partners. That way the people who have an issue with the use of the word "marriage" could be satisfied and the people who want everyone to be equal could be satisfied, and everyone could also be equally unhappy. Marriage has been a religious concept since long before the USA existed. Equal rights has been around (but poorly handled early on) since the USA was founded. Satisfaction of these two different ideals, is difficult when there is a word in the way. If everyone had a civil union in Michigan regardless of what the mix was, then the people who wanted to use the word marriage could, but the state would not be in the middle of this tug of war. Everyone would get their benefits if we just changed the language in the various state laws to civil union and changed the language to "consenting adults" in place of "man and woman". I really think that many people who are unhappy about the idea of same sex marriage would have no issue with civil unions, and if that was what the state recognized for all people, then there would be no issue of unequal treatment. Now for the flames from both sides, since this is not what either side really wants.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 12:58 a.m.

DonBee is completely wrong that marriage is a religious concept. It is a social contract between two (or more parties). Marriage isn't just a contractual bond of a loving relationship, it applies to business, to politics, to just about anything.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

If you are offended by a word...get over it. Marriage has nothing to do with religion. Religion has used marriage, not the other way around. If every gay person in the state got married next week, do you know what would change in the lives of heterosexual marriages...NOTHING!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

I think the point DonBee is making (which I agree with) is that this issue for many people boils down to wording. Most people who are religious and have problems with gay marriage are reacting to others using the word "marriage" in a way that they don't like. No matter what the wording is though, this issue should be about how the government recognizes partners and not about what their union is called. Like it or not, the word "marriage" carries with it religious overtones, and it might therefore be easier for our government to use different wording to describe the legal union that most people right now consider to be marriage (such as a civil union). That way no one would feel discriminated against legally as no one would be legally married but instead part of a civil union. I think it would be perfectly reasonable at this point I think for the government to certify qualified religious institutions to perform marriages which would also count as civil unions under the law. By doing this, the "marriage" process would be almost unchanged for the majority of Americans, but the legal benefits of what is now referred to as marriage could be enjoyed by everyone.

Freight Train

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

I am not sure you can really claim that marriage is a relationship defined by religion. People have certainly been getting "married" before Christ walked the earth. My wife and I are Buddhists. There is no formal ceremony offered here for us, so we were married in Ann Arbor by a judge. In your definition we are not married? The state says that we are married and we are recognized as such legally. Our children know we are married and it means something to them. To not allow same sex couples to marry is to deny them these legal and social benefits. This is a civil rights issue. My vote will be for marriage for ALL!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

Thats the best cCmpromise Ive yet to hear on this topic.

Willie Reid

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

The problem is right now marriage is what's recognized legally from state to state. At the Federal level civil unions would need the same recognition as marriages for this to be acceptable. I agree that marriage is supposedly a religious function and that government should stay out of religion, but many non-religious heterosexuals including myself have taken full advantage of Federal benefits relating to marriages. I think the federal government would have to say that anything performed outside of the church is considered a civil union, but marriages and civil unions are afforded the exact same privileges. Personally I wouldn't mind if my heterosexual marriage was considered a civil union since I understand the religious connotations behind marriage, but I have a feeling that a lot of people wouldn't feel the same way.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

I agree with you too DonBee. Marriage is a religious term and no legislature should change it's definition. While I support the gay community, one thing that irks me is the absolute lack of compromise, it seems to have to be all or nothing. I think civil unions which are equal to marriage legally is fine.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 4:04 p.m.

You are right. The primary reasoning behind Gay marriage is the legal benefits afforded to the married couple. A legally recognized civil union that would have all the benefits (and dissolution requirements) as marriage would solve the problem. I don't understand why our legislature doesn't recognize this and introduce a bill that would leave marriage out of the equation but offer the aspects as necessary. It appears Zemke and Irwin would rather shake the hornet's nest instead of finding a reasonable solution.