NOTE: This post has been updated HERE. Also, the section covering HB 4731 has been edited to clarify its intent.
Republicans Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat introduced a package of bills in the state House yesterday that are a continuation of their crusade to turn Michigan into a theocracy.
There three bills in the package. House Bill 4731 changes the current law covering the ability of a couple to get married in secret (“without publicity”) to
make that option available only to opposite-sex couples. It actually explicitly refers to a person’s “marriage to a person of the opposite sex” give only “the clergy” that ability. Here’s the pertinent section (emphasis mine):
Beginning 90 days after the effective date of the amendatory act that added Section 1A, when a person desires to keep the exact date of his or her marriage to a person of the opposite sex a secret, the clergy may issue, without publicity, a marriage certificate to any person making an application, under oath, if there is good reason expressed in the application and determined to be sufficient by the clergy.
The mention of “clergy” is important because a second bill, House Bill 4733, would restrict the issuance and signing of marriage licenses only to “clergy” which they define as “a minister of the Gospel, cleric, or religious practitioner.”
Finally, House Bill 4732 would make it illegal for anyone who is not a “minister of the Gospel, cleric, or religious practitioner” to perform a marriage.
So: No secret gay marriages. Only clergy can issue and sign marriage licenses, and only clergy can perform weddings. No goverment officials involved, marriage becomes the exclusive baliwick of religion. Athiests can just suck it up.
The clear goal here is to preempt any impact from a positive U.S. Supreme Court decision later this month making same-sex marriage bans illegal. If these bills pass and the SCOTUS decision blocks same-sex marriage bans, you can be sure that Michigan Republicans will then introduce “RFRA for Marriage” legislation that would allow “a minister of the Gospel, cleric, or religious practitioner” to refuse to marry a same-sex couple based on “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” But, if Michigan law says they are the only ones allowed to marry anyone in this state, the ability of same-sex couples to get legally married in Michigan would be severely diminished. And there won’t be any “secret” gay marriages, either, so don’t you worry yourself about that.
This is religio-bigotry writ large and bold and in italics with three exclamation points.
Feel safe, opposite sex husbands and wives, Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser are doing everything in their power to “preserve the sanctity” of your marriages (or your second marriages or your third marriages or…) by stomping on the civil rights of loving same-sex couples who are simply trying to be married.
I wouldn’t put it past them to introduce legislation that determines which religions qualify under their new laws should the ever be passed. Because, let’s be honest, this isn’t about just ANY sincerely-held religious beliefs. This is about Courser’s and Gamrat’s sincerely-held religious beliefs.
[Photo credit: Chris Savage]