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Past Justice Action Alerts #9
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Sent: Sunday, September 26, 2004
Decision 2004
Voters Should Reject Gambling, Gay Marriage Bans
Neither proposal merits support for permanently altering Michigan's Constitution
The Detroit News

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Direct democracy can be a useful tool. Constitutions should be living documents, updated and modified periodically to better respond to the changing needs of the governed.
But the referendum process shouldn’t replace the Legislature or excuse lawmakers from making the hard decisions that voters elect them to make. Ballot measures also shouldn’t be used to enshrine in the Constitution pet peeves, the latest social niff-naws or a competitive advantage for one business over another.
Two ballot proposals before Michigan voters Nov. 2 fail the test of what are appropriate reasons for reopening the state Constitution.
Opponents of slot machines at Michigan horse racing tracks had no luck getting the state Legislature to listen to their arguments against the so-called racinos.
Lawmakers seem hell-bent on pressing ahead with turning race tracks into poorly regulated casinos. That’s too bad. Expanding gambling in this fashion is a terrible idea and will push Michigan nearer to the gaming saturation point.
When that happens, everyone loses.
Still, backers of Proposal 1 do not make a convincing case for tinkering with the Constitution.
The proposal would require voter approval for any further expansion of gambling in the state, including racinos.
It would take away from the lawmakers and governor the authority to control the growth of gambling in the state.
Proponents, most notably the Detroit casinos, hope this will halt gambling in its tracks, believing there will be little voter support for additional gaming, particularly the racinos. But it could just as easily lead to referendum after referendum financed by race tracks and other gaming interests to greatly multiply gambling.
If gambling is to exist in Michigan, it should do so in an orderly fashion. Given the social costs that gambling brings, the Legislature and governor ought to be involved in decisions affecting the industry’s growth.
We continue to urge lawmakers not to authorize racinos. But if they do so, the state’s elected officials should subject them to the same government oversight and ethical standards as the casinos.
But we still recommend that voters say NO to Proposal 1.
Gay Marriage
Perhaps the most divisive social issue in America today is gay marriage.
Opponents of same-sex marriages see them as a threat to traditional unions and an affront to the moral and religious values of many citizens. They are offering Proposal 2 on the ballot, which says “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as marriage or similar union any purpose.”
Those fighting the amendment say its language is so restrictive it would also ban homosexual civil unions, a legal arrangement a half-step down from marriage contracts and which has greater public support.
Michigan already has a state law banning same-sex marriages. Amendment backers fear that a court could overturn the law and, as the Massachusetts’ Supreme Court did, order state recognition of gay marriages.
This is not an issue that should be decided by the courts. But neither is it one that should be permanently settled by a constitutional amendment.
Public attitudes toward homosexuals and gay marriage are shifting, as are moral values in general. What was not acceptable 20 years ago is regarded as perfectly OK today.
Locking into the Constitution a permanent ban against same-sex marriage ignores the changing nature of attitudes about relationships. This is a matter the Legislature should continue to handle. A law is far easier to change, if necessary, than a constitutional amendment.
Michigan voters should be content at this time to let its current law banning same-sex marriage stand and vote NO on Proposal 2.

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