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Recently, I was approached to provide comments on the television series "Will & Grace". It was exciting that millions of viewers would tune into watch Will and best pal Grace weekly. I think it's easy to forget what TV was like before we had the show, and were just hearing about the possibility of it's existence. That we might actually see a gay leading character portrayed positively was, for me, an incredible prospect. Thinking of all that has followed on television in terms of gay characters, it seems that a fair percentage of the credit should be afforded to the show. I believe it has increased acceptance of gay people because we were presented in an everyday, albeit exaggerated, context. For how many people I wonder, was this their first knowing exposure to gay people?

What does sadden me is that, often, there still only seems to be acceptance of gay and lesbian characters if they are presented as entertainment caricatures or partial beings. As long as we play the role of the court eunuchs, we're acceptable. It appears that there is a major difference in the reaction when we expect to be seen as complete beings with full lives that include affection, intimacy, individuality, relationships, acceptance and equality. Something that became painfully obvious to me personally as I worked against Prop. 2 this past election. From the loss of those I considered friends to hate mail received...even to the battles with the MDP leadership as we fought to have a resolution against Proposal 2 included the MDP Platform in 2004.

(Which we did achieve!)

Some in area feel show didn't take gay issues far enough
Sunday, May 14, 2006
News Arts Writer
The Ann Arbor News

It's time to say goodbye to "Will & Grace.''

Now the question is: Will anyone miss it?

The NBC sitcom will end its eight-year run Thursday night. Trailblazing for its time, the prime-time program was the first on a major network to feature gay characters on an equal footing with heterosexuals.

For that alone, it should get some credit - although much of the show's appeal has worn off, say members of the Ann Arbor gay community.

"I think, given the time, it was groundbreaking. I think a lot has happened in the past eight years. To think about it today as still groundbreaking, it's probably not,'' said Jackie Simpson, interim director of the University of Michigan's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs.

"When the show came on, it was so exciting. Here was a program where the main characters were gay,'' said Ann Arborite Mike Romatowski. "It was a visibility thing.'' Now, he said, "we never make time to watch the show or tape it. The bottom line is, it's funny, the people who appear on it are gay supportive, but it's time to move on.''

The NBC sitcom about handsome, successful gay lawyer Will (Eric McCormack); his straight interior-decorator best friend Grace (Debra Messing); her dipsomaniac assistant Karen (Megan Mullally); and self-obsessed, flamboyant pal Jack (Sean Hayes) premiered on Sept. 21, 1998.

"Will & Grace'' featured an ensemble cast of relative unknowns that clicked not only with each other but with the public. Along the way there were a couple of live episodes and a conga line of guest stars that included Cher, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, Britney Spears, Debbie Reynolds, Lily Tomlin, Rip Torn ...

All four stars won Emmys, and the series won the trophy for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2000. "Will & Grace'' had its best year in the Nielsens in 2001-02, averaging 17.3 million viewers.

NBC is still keeping the details about the final "Will & Grace'' episode under wraps, but it is expected to answer the question of whether the pair will decide to raise Grace's baby together or pair off with their respective boyfriends.

Read the rest of the article here (from Mlive.com)

Detroit Free Press Editorial: Vote No On 2
No on 2: Marriage ban is rooted in intolerance
Detroit Free Press, Oct 6, 2004
Editorial Page

October 6, 2004- Michigan should not enshrine discrimination into its Constitution. Voters can prevent that by rejecting Proposal 2, which would amend the Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The object is to ban marriage for gays and lesbians, already illegal under Michigan law that supporters of Proposal 2 fear will be overturned by the courts, as happened in Massachusetts.

Members of Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, which collected the signatures that put Proposal 2 on the Nov. 2 ballot, take umbrage at accusations of bigotry. They argue that celebrating traditional marriage should not be taken to mean they're anti-something else.

Whether it's naivete or ill will, they fail to acknowledge that the proposal is exclusionary in its decree that marriage is strictly for heterosexuals. Proposal 2 supporters also say it's about children -- families are healthier when one man and one woman raise their offspring. But families are healthiest when headed by two adults committed to one another. As many adoptive parents also have proved, biology can't claim the franchise on good child-rearing.

Even if the idea of gay marriage gives voters pause -- polls show it certainly does -- the language of Proposal 2 goes too far. It says the union of one man and one woman is the only one recognized as marriage "or similar union for any purpose." Supporters say that language is merely there for emphasis. They should have left it out.

At best it is unclear and likely will end up in court. A Louisiana judge threw out a similar constitutional amendment Tuesday. At worst, it could mean government agencies cannot recognize civil unions and offer domestic partner benefits -- limiting their ability to treat employees fairly.

Businesses, too, look for an inclusive climate when they consider where to locate. This can also be a factor in recruiting.

The respected and apolitical Citizens Research Council says the economic impact of Proposal 2, pass or fail, will be negligible.

But benefits such as health care -- for spouses, partners and children -- tend to be doled out through jobs. Denying benefits to the households of gay employees means public systems will have to pick up those costs. A government stamp of approval makes it harder to walk away from a union, so if the real interest is in keeping families together, gay marriages would help.

In a turbulent world, it's tempting to cling to tradition. But tradition is full of practices America long since shunned as discriminatory. The constitutional amendment blocks any possibility that gay couples might get the recognition to which they are entitled. Michigan should not ban gay marriage.

Vote NO on Proposal 2.

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

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.

Flint Journal - Editorial
October 10, 2004
Flint Journal Says Vote No on 2:
Proposal 2 targets a non-issue with a harmful 'remedy'

Gay marriage is not on the horizon in Michigan and there is no need for voters to amend the state constitution in a way that would unfairly harm some citizens.

In drafting Proposal 2 to ban same-sex marriage, the Citizens for the Defense of Marriage went well beyond what was necessary to achieve that goal. For example, if the proposal is adopted Nov. 2, it could end health and other benefits extended by some public employers to gay couples, and perhaps encourage private companies to do likewise.

Additionally, language in the proposed amendment threatens those same domestic partner benefits for unmarried heterosexual couples.

Federal and state law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Further, the federal Defense of Marriage Act allows Michigan to not recognize a same-sex marriage in another state, such as Massachusetts, according to an analysis of Proposal 2 by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, which is respected for its nonpartisanship.

Of course, the Michigan Supreme Court could strike down the state's prohibition of gay marriages, currently unlikely. But by the same token a federal judge could invalidate the law in Proposal 2 even if overwhelmingly approved.

The immediate effect if the amendment passes - and polls show that likely - would be to inject discriminatory policy into the state constitution targeting unmarried couples, both gay and straight.
Proposal 2 says "the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose." The words "in marriage" and "or similar union for any purpose" suggest an ambitious agenda to deny rights to non-traditional household partners.

That should not be the role of government or the law. Partnerships are a matter of personal choice - no matter how much we may disapprove of some of these arrangements. And the state's constitution should not be used to preclude employer health benefits or certain legal protections for unmarried domestic partners, same-sex or otherwise.

Proposal 2 targets a non-existent "problem" with a broadly harmful "remedy." Voters should defeat it.

Jack Lessenberry
Article published Friday, October 8, 2004
Gay marriage: Michigan voters risk creating a real mess
DETROIT - On Election Day, Michigan voters will be asked to outlaw something that is already illegal, but to do so in a way that will invite lawsuits, threaten health care for children, and have other unintended consequences.

The issue is called Proposal 2 and, if enacted, it is apt to create a real mess. But every sign is that voters will do so anyway. The issue, of course, is gay marriage, which is already against the law in Michigan and across the nation.

Now, however, those opposed to it want to enact a proposed state constitutional amendment specifying that "the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose."

That amendment got on the ballot this fall, despite its rejection by the conservative, Republican-led Michigan legislature, which said it was unnecessary and feared it might have far-reaching effects beyond gay marriage.

But a group called Citizens for the Protection of Marriage then managed to collect nearly half a million signatures to get the issue on the ballot. Polls show it passing easily, despite bitter opposition from civil rights groups.

Similar propositions are on the ballot in Ohio and eight other states this November, many of them spurred by reaction to San Francisco and Massachusetts' brief experiments in recognizing gay marriage earlier this year.

However, many of them - including Michigan's - may have effects far more sweeping than their framers intended. The main problem here is in the last six words of the amendment - "or similar union for any purpose." That was clearly meant to also outlaw civil unions between gay couples. But it would also prevent public officials from extending marriage benefits, such as health care coverage, to same-sex partners of unmarried employees.

A number of cities, universities, and a few private employers provide such benefits now. Some even fear the amendment would also outlaw so-called domestic partner benefits for any unmarried people, even opposite sex couples. That would affect health care coverage for an unknown number of children.
That would mean, of course, lawsuits galore. The Coalition for a Fair Michigan, an ad hoc group of those opposed to the amendment, has been making that argument in an effort to persuade voters that Proposal 2 is bad news.

But that argument isn't working. "I think that marriage is between a man and a woman, period," said Randell Shafer, a Republican candidate for Congress in the hopelessly Democratic 12th District. Mr. Shafer doesn't have a chance, but many who vote against him are certain also to vote against gay marriage.

Surveys have found that black voters, who overwhelmingly back liberal Democratic candidates, are also some of the strongest supporters of the gay marriage ban. Their signatures, many collected in packed churches, went a long way toward helping get it on the ballot.

Some who are bitterly opposed to gay marriage have indicated to pollsters the hope and the mistaken belief that the amendment will outlaw gay sexual activity, period. But even if Michigan voters wanted to do that, they could not.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in Lawrence vs. Texas that the state could not prohibit sexual activity between same-sex persons.

The hope of those who believe in equal rights for same-sex unions now largely centers on the U.S. Supreme Court. Robert Sedler, a distinguished professor of law at Wayne State University in Detroit, predicts that eventually the high court is bound to decide the issue.

Many lawyers - including some who oppose same sex marriage - think the current amendment is clumsily written and apt to be overturned by the courts, which may rule that it is too vague to be enforced.

But it would be especially ironic if Michigan voters outlaw same sex marriage this fall, and the Supreme Court later not only overturns the law, but decides that gay marriage is a constitutionally protected right.

Professor Sedler isn't willing to predict that will happen. "I learned a long time ago that you can't predict how the court will decide."

But he thinks that is exactly what the courts should do. "Indeed, I see Lawrence as providing … impetus to recognition of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage." Mr. Sedler said.
The professor, who has been married for 44 years and whose children are all married and heterosexual, believes strongly that not only is the current amendment wrongheaded, "the Constitution should protect the right to same-sex marriage under the equal protection clause. There is no logical or rational reason why marriage should be limited to opposite-sex couples."

Polls show his is the minority view today. But they also show that the state's youngest voters are the most in favor of a right to gay marriage. Thirty years from now, Michigan may be a very different place.

Sunday, October 17, 2004
Prop 2 sends message: Gays don't deserve equal rights
By Laura Berman / The Detroit News

Like Pucci scarves and fishnet stockings, marriage is in the midst of a revival. It’s so trendy that gay men who used to pride themselves on their status as social outlaws want to trade gold bands and buy in.

It’s so retro chic that the legal ideologues at the Thomas More Law Center and friends are well on their way to tricking up the Michigan Constitution with a so-called Marriage Protection Amendment designed to fortify marriage for the ages.

If John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and their pals gave us the sweeping uplift of the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” we’ve now got Proposal 2 — the Marriage Protection Amendment — facing us down on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Not since the days when married women were, literally, chattel has so much pap been offered about marriage as a way to justify other ends.

Prop 2 enshrines discrimination against gays and lesbians in the state constitution: It creates barriers to rights and strips away some — like domestic partner health insurance benefits — that have already been hard won.

Its wording states that “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”

Sound simple? Well, look closely and then try to explain what that means.

The language is at once so sweeping and murky that, as a law, its impact is expected to go beyond banning same-sex marriages. Even its advocates admit that it will eliminate domestic partner benefits. It will also prohibit civil unions between same-sex couples.

Why should you care? While John Kerry’s comments about Mary Cheney’s sexual orientation struck me as gratuitous in Wednesday night’s debate, he might have made a point: Gay people are our teachers, lawyers, auto executives, our relatives and friends; they’re even the vice president’s daughter.

Proposal 2 isn’t affirmative or even defensive; it’s pernicious. Under the guise of stopping same-sex marriage — which is already illegal under Michigan’s Marriage Protection Act — it sends a message that gay people don’t deserve equal rights.
At the most pragmatic level, Proposal 2 will likely restrict state universities, school districts and municipalities from extending benefits like health insurance to same-sex partners — benefits that are now widely in place.
The auto companies all have domestic partner benefits — a policy driven by their need to attract high quality employees, not to make moral judgments.
And the state of Michigan hardly needs a new way to make our wilting work force less competitive.
The proposed amendment feigns interest in protecting marriage, even as it hurts individuals who care about each other. It values an idea — a definition — over the lives of living, breathing people.

Given the controversial and renewed sense of appreciation for the marital process, the heft of Bride’s magazine and the success of Vera Wang, my sense is that marriage is likely to survive without voter intervention.

I will vote against Proposal 2 because it sends a message of intolerance to good people trying to pursue good old American life, liberty and happiness.

Why gay marriage is good for conservatism
By ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist
Published May 23, 2004

This week seemed to be a time for liberals to rejoice. Despite the drumbeat of bad news from Iraq, nearly every news outlet pushed that aside to offer jubilant scenes from Massachusetts where gays and lesbians were celebrating their long-awaited legal marriages with throngs of well-wishers. The handfuls of naysayers were shown in tiny clusters outside municipal buildings carrying posters of invective and kneeling on the ground praying for their condemning God to intervene. He didn't.

People who take their earth science and biology from a literal reading of the Bible will never be convinced that allowing gay marriage is a social good and one that will ultimately prove to be a stabilizing force in society. But there are plenty of self-described political conservatives who will respond to logic and reason and it is for them that today's clearest thinker on the subject, Jonathan Rauch, wrote the book: Gay Marriage: Why it is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. He should have added, "and Good for Conservatives." This week in Massachusetts has been a positive one for conservative values, even if those on the right don't want to admit it.

Rauch, a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution, cut his think-tank teeth at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He understands how to speak to a right-of-center audience, so much so that conservative scholar Charles Murray recently declared his support for gay marriage, citing the book as convincing.

Rauch's primary point is that homosexual relationships are not going to go away; and if they are an established fact of life, then the question becomes: how to treat those relationships to best secure other values in society? Conservatives particularly claim to care about such things as fortifying the institution of marriage for heterosexuals, securing the care and protection of children and encouraging strong families that help themselves rather than looking for government handouts.

Rauch argues that society would be doing far more damage to these conservative values either by trying to legally repress homosexual relationships or by offering gays some form of domestic partnership or civil union - what he calls "marriage-lite" - than by simply granting homosexuals the right to enter into full-fledged marriages.

On protecting marriage as an institution, Rauch says the gold standard of marriage is best preserved by the viewpoint: "If you want the benefits of marriage, get married." Otherwise, he says, "as society makes room for unmarried but devoted same-sex couples, custom and law will provide cohabitants with many of marriage's benefits - only without the bother of formal commitment, legal responsibilities, or a messy divorce."

The threat to marriage, according to Rauch, is not that homosexuals want to get married, but that straight couples don't want to. The marriage ban exacerbates this by turning "gays into walking billboards for the irrelevance of marriage."

As to children, Rauch responds to those who say that marriage is for procreation by reminding them that sex is for procreation, marriage is for building families. He agrees that marriage is the best environment for raising children and wonders why conservatives don't seem to consider the 28 percent of homosexual couples with children. Through artificial insemination for lesbian couples and the use of surrogate mothers and adoption for gay men, homosexuals are raising children in increasing numbers. These children would be far better off growing up with the stability of married parents.

The choice here is not whether children of a homosexual parent will live with a mommy and daddy, because that is not going to happen. They will either have two caring, legally responsible adults in a relationship recognized by the state, or they will have two adults in their lives but only one who has a legal obligation to their care.

Now, which family situation is more closely aligned with conservative values?

Supporting gay marriage also helps stabilize society by providing added security to otherwise vulnerable single people. Rauch says that, "from society's point of view, an unattached person is an accident waiting to happen." Marriage means there will be a support system in place to address a sudden illness, an accident or a bout of unemployment. It gives adults a safety net that might otherwise be left to government to provide.

Come on. Conservatives gotta love that.

Opponents of same-sex marriage on the right , such as Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., like to ground their arguments in historic traditions. "Marriage is between a man and a woman," Santorum said last summer, because "every civilization in the history of man has recognized a unique bond." President Bush, in calling for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, said "The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution ... honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith."

Well, actually, as Rauch points out, the historical norm for marriage is between a man and women, not a man and a woman. Out of 1,154 past and present societies, anthropologists document that 980, a huge majority, have allowed polygamy (and anyone who wants to quote the Bible in this debate should also check it for the multiple wives of God's chosen, including Abraham and Jacob). This inconvenient fact suggests that history and tradition might not be the place from which to draw rhetorical firepower.

Conservatives who are open to rational argument have got to think this out. Objecting to same-sex marriage is fighting against interest. What is happening in Massachusetts is an embrace and affirmation of traditional values. Really, it's time to put down the protest signs and join the party.

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