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
BY ROGER LELIEVRE
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)
Free Press Editorial: Vote No On 2
No on 2: Marriage ban is rooted in intolerance
Detroit Free Press, Oct 6, 2004
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
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.
NO on Proposal 2.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Voters Should Reject Gambling, Gay Marriage Bans
Neither proposal merits support for permanently altering Michigan's
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
Two ballot proposals before Michigan voters Nov. 2 fail the
test of what are appropriate reasons for reopening the state
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
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
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
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
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
Michigan voters should be content at this time to let its current
law banning same-sex marriage stand and vote NO on Proposal
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
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
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
Proposal 2 targets a non-existent "problem" with a
broadly harmful "remedy." Voters should defeat
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.