Guest column: Sixth Circuit Court’s punt on gay marriage is a Failure of justice


By Guest writer 
on November 18, 2014 at 8:00 AM, updated November 18, 2014

By Douglas Meeks
Douglas Meeks is a Lansing lawyer who married Republican strategist Greg McNeilly.

Court after Court has been nearly unanimous: the U.S. Constitution bars discrimination in the form of bans on same-sex marriage. 32 of 50 states currently recognize marriage equality. So many Federal Circuit Courts have agreed that the U.S. Supreme Court said there was no reason for them to engage.

Proponents of banning same-sex marriage have been losing and running out of time.
Enter the Sixth Circuit (which represents Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee). All eyes were on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Like a championship football game, it is the last quarter and all eyes are the quarterback (Sixth Circuit), as they step up to the line of scrimmage. And… they punt!

It was quite obvious at the onset the Sixth Circuit majority wanted no part of making a decision that would legalize same-sex marriage.

Like a game of hot potato, the Sixth Circuit Court punted as to who should make the decision on whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry. The United States Supreme Court? A majority of voters in each separate state?

In lieu of interrupting the Constitution, the Sixth Circuit wondered aloud in its decision that perhaps gays need to work harder, wait longer—get out there and change the minds and hearts of their citizenry.

Acknowledging discrimination occurs, the Sixth Circuit proceeded to contemplate – like a college philosophy class – on the interrelation between historical marriage, modern inequality and the virtues of a democracy versus a republic. Meanwhile, failing to address the issue and punting back to its respective states.

Sadly, this is no game.

The Court’s failure impacts real people. Families who on an everyday basis are living their lives, raising children, paying bills and engaged to improve their community. They are regular Americans who are denied the freedom to marry who they love, protect their families, and be treated equally by their government who doles out benefits to marriages of those it has chosen as “winners.”

Michigan is now once again in the minority of states who refuse to allow its LGBT families to be recognized by law. While waiting for the highest Court to resolve this injustice or the democratic process, LGBT families continue to be saddled with inequality of benefits, second-class stigma and in too many cases, a lack of protection for their children and families.

The delay of justice one minute continues to harm the LGBT community for a lifetime. Gays and Lesbians are no different from the rest of the public, we all want to live life to its fullest, we all will die, and we all don’t know how many more days we will be on this earth.

The Sixth Circuit thinks we should just wait more time, wait for the Supreme Court, and wait for the democratic process to work itself out. Thankfully this judicial panel did not sit in review of Brown v Board of Education. Time is precious, and not infinite. Why should the LGBT Community’s life, liberty and happiness be deprived one more day?

The Sixth Circuit argues that the LGBT community should change the hearts and minds of Michigan Citizens through the democratic process, and continue to wait for the majority to recognize the injustices. This is somewhat akin to asking a bully to recognize they’re being a bully. It is as if the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals forgot that we are a republic and not a democracy ruled by the majority. While forgetting that, they forgot their constitutional responsibility to exercise checks and balances to ensure that a majority does not discriminate against a minority.

As of today I have been married 230 days, not a day goes by that I don’t look down and see the ring on my finger and smile. I am lucky to have found love and marry my best friend. I was able to do it in the State of Michigan, the state I call home, with the people that I love and who love me.

Sadly, this last punt has been emotionally hard and the uncertainty unnerving. Many of our friends are contemplating leaving this State of Michigan for a State that recognizes same sex marriage, protects their families and ensures their employability. I only can say, stay! Fight! Get involved! There will be another fight, and with that fight — the triumph of love.

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