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Sunday, September 26, 2004
DETROIT NEWS RECOMMENDS THAT VOTERS SAY "NO" TO
PROPOSED MARRIAGE AMENDMENT
Voters Should Reject Gambling, Gay Marriage Bans
Neither proposal merits support for permanently altering
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
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
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.
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
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.