On Tuesday, March 9, 2004 the Michigan House of Representatives fell eight votes short of placing a constitutional ban on gay marriage before Michigan voters. Just three out of 63 Republicans voted against the proposal (73 were needed—two-thirds of the chamber). One of the three is term limited and cannot run again. The other two have been threatened with primary challengers by the American Family Association.
The floor speech of Rep. Leon Drolet, one of the two being threatened with a challenge, is attached below the article. Excerpts from it have been generously re-printed and rebroadcast by various newspapers and broadcast media in Michigan. The subject matter is the reason why REPUBLICANS should be opposed.
GONGWER NEWS SERVICE
March 9, 2004
PRIMARY CHALLENGES TO DROLET, WENKE CALLED A 'CERTAINTY'
The first political fallout of Tuesday's vote to reject a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was immediate: a promise by one conservative leader that two Republicans who opposed the measure would face challenges this year for the GOP nomination in their districts.
Challengers to Republican Reps. Leon Drolet of Clinton Township and Lorence Wenke of Richland are being recruited, said Gary Glenn of the American Family Association's Michigan chapter. "I think that's a certainty," he said of organized opposition to the two lawmakers, noting that his own group can have no involvement as a nonprofit organization.
And both candidates could attract quality challengers. Macomb Township Republican Maria Carl, the widow of former Sen. Doug Carl, announced late Tuesday she is creating an exploratory committee to run against Mr. Drolet, in the 33rd District. Mr. Drolet defeated Ms. Carl in the 2001 special primary to fill the seat.
In her press release, Ms. Carl said Mr. Drolet should be ashamed of himself for failing, "to support the effort to place an Amendment to the Michigan Constitution before the voters this year to enshire (sic) for all time that marriage is to be defined in Michigan as between one man and one woman."
Mr. Wenke is facing a potential challenge from former Rep. Jerry Vander Roest of Galesburg, Mr. Glenn said. Mr. Vander Roest held a seat similar to Mr. Wenke's from 1999-2002. He lost the 2002 Republican primary for that area's Senate district.
The third Republican "no" vote came from Rep. Doug Hart of Rockford, but he cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
Mr. Drolet, a deeply conservative lawmaker on fiscal matters but whose libertarian bent led to his Tuesday vote, said he would take any challenge seriously.
"It's not unexpected. People have a legitimate right to disagree," Mr. Drolet said.
"I think I've done a really good job outlining my conservative credentials. If they think otherwise, let them file."
In her press release, Ms. Carl said Mr. Drolet's outrageous action has harmed "Michigan's families immeasurably."
Mr. Wenke said Mr. Vander Roest would be a "strong opponent," but expected he would defeat him.
"Certainly, I do not welcome a primary challenger, but I'm also not afraid of a primary challenger," he said. "I'm well known in my district, and even though it's probably true that over half the people of my district disagree with me on this marriage amendment issue, I believe they will respect my position."
Of Mr. Glenn, Mr. Wenke said, "Gary Glenn as far as I know is a one-man show based in Midland. I don't think he has any board of directors. I don't think he has any money. I will be learning more about Gary Glenn since he has certainly put a target on me."
For the general election, Republicans assuredly will be eyeing the "no" votes of Democrats in districts with a socially conservative bent, possibly the "no" votes of Reps. Steve Bieda of Warren, Rich Brown of Bessemer, Jennifer Elkins of Lake and Matt Gillard of Alpena.
Rep. Drolet's Floor Speech on Amendment Proposal
"Mr. Speaker and members of the House,
Back in junior high school we used to play a game at recess called 'smear the queer'. The game didn't have any real rules but went like this; an unpopular boy would be targeted by a group of other boys and labeled 'queer'. The group of boys would then chase down and surround the victim, ending the game by piling on top of the targeted boy. Rarely was any real harm done physically, but some children feared recess because of the game, and other boys felt they had to play in order to avoid being targeted as 'queer'. I am ashamed to say that I sometimes joined in the game. But then I grew up, and I forgot about the game.
What reminded me of the game was the Committee on Family and Children Services hearing held two weeks ago on the resolution before us now. This resolution, if adopted and voted into the Constitution, would have longstanding and significant impact on the lives of many gay and lesbian citizens in Michigan. One might expect that a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with human rights would be carefully evaluated by lawmakers who would also solicit testimony from the citizens of this state. Sadly, that was not the case at the committee hearing. The committee allowed only 40 minutes of public testimony. The great majority of citizens who drove to Lansing from throughout Michigan were not permitted to speak. At the conclusion of the committee hearing, the Chairman read the names of citizens in attendance that were not given the chance to speak and stated whether they supported or opposed the resolution. Even this was done with such haste that the Chair described the organization of one citizen present as "Parents and whatever of whatever and whatever." Because this citizen was not allowed to testify on a constitutional amendment, or even have the name of his organization respectfully stated, let me state that name now: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. That is the name of just one of many organizations and citizens denied any opportunity to speak to their elected government as part of the legislative process. Regardless of your position on the resolution before us, what happened in that committee hearing was demeaning and dismissive to the citizens of the state of Michigan.
What role should government play in marriage? Certainly not to regulate or enforce any person's relationship with God. Our country's first immigrants came to these shores to escape governments that regulated their relationship with God. Nor can the government regulate or enforce the personal and private emotions, thoughts and intimate actions between two people.
Marriage is primarily a contract between two people and, if they choose, God. Society, as in neighbors, friends and family, may choose to accept two people's relationship or reject it as morally invalid regardless of any decree from politicians or bureaucrats.
The only role for government, if it is to be in the marriage business at all, is to enforce and regulate the contract of marriage in its' civil capacity. The crux of the amendment before us is to prohibit the state from recognizing a voluntary contract made between two adults. Why would we single out some people for unequal contracting rights?
Proponents claim that homosexual people need to be singled out for unequal contracting rights in order to protect the institution of marriage. Let me see if I have this right: Forty years of skyrocketing divorce rates and nobody proposes a constitutional amendment to deal with divorce. Thirty years of recognizing 'common-law' marriages and nobody proposes a constitutional amendment to deal with people who 'shack-up'. The USA Today reported just this past Friday that out-of-wedlock births have tripled over the past 30 years; but no one has proposed we amend the constitution to prohibit premarital sex. Decreasing stigmatization of infidelity, yet no constitutional amendment. In 1994, Bill Bennett said the following to the Christian Coalition, "In terms of damage to the children of America, you cannot compare what the homosexual movement has done to what divorce has done. It is not even close."
But for some reason, gay marriage is such a threat that an amendment to the constitution is required. You know what I think? We have found a minority that can be made into a scapegoat so that we don't have to seriously address the detrimental actions of the majority.
"It's not the log in OUR eye, but the splinter in THEIRS! It's not OUR fault that marriage is a troubled institution, it is other people's fault!" That is how this amendment can be interpreted. The heterosexual majority would never propose to use government force to prohibit divorce, infidelity or 'shacking-up' because those are things that many heterosexual people choose to do.
But loving and committing to someone of the same sex is something that only a small minority chooses to do. So it is easy to blame them. We are back on the playground still playing 'smear the queer.'
My views, like those of most of you, on this proposed amendment are influenced by experiences in my life and in the lives of people I know. When I graduated from Eisenhower High School in 1985, I went on a vacation with three friends. My friend Mike is now married and has two children. My classmate Scott has been married and divorced three times and now lives with a new girlfriend out of state. He can't visit Michigan because he abandoned his two children with his last wife and owes a great deal of back child support. Scott has never even visited his children since his last divorce about six years ago. My friend Joe is gay and met his partner Richard through his family's business 13 years ago. They have been a loyal and loving couple throughout their 13 year relationship.
Isn't it ironic that Scott can still come back to Michigan and get married, or have his common law marriage granted from the state he currently resides be recognized here under the 'full faith and credit' clause. But Joe's solid 13-year relationship can have no legal or contractual acceptance by the state. The sponsor of the Senate version of this resolution is quoted in Gongwer on February 22 as saying, "A monogamous homosexual couple is almost unheard of in the gay lifestyle". I am sorry, but that might be an effective slogan in a Jerry Fallwell fundraising letter, but it is simply NOT true.
Friends and colleagues, amending the state constitution is a drastic step. Nonetheless, I know there are occasions when amendments should be made. Indeed, I am co-chairing an effort to amend the constitution through a petition initiative right now. The amendment I propose is drastically different from the one before us today. My amendment would have the government treat all citizens equally. The amendment before us today would place unequal protection of citizens right into the constitution. Allow me to make my position on human rights very clear: I support equal constitutional and legal rights for each and every individual Michigan citizen. I do NOT support group rights, special rights based on any factor, race or gender preferences, or special protections such as 'hate crime' laws. Every citizen deserves true equal protection under the law.
Americans have fought too long and too hard to eliminate constitutionally mandated discrimination against ethic groups, women, and other minorities. Already, polls show younger Americans are much more prone to support equal treatment under the law for homosexuals than older Americans. These young Americans, and history, will not judge this constitutional amendment well.
I ran for the state legislature because I believe that the size, scope and cost of government should be reduced. It is not the proper role of government to interfere with peoples' relationships, nor to discourage or encourage love or commitments between consenting adults who harm no one. This amendment is designed to demonstrate governmental disapproval of some peoples' relationships and will do nothing to protect or strengthen the marriages of heterosexual people.
Of course, initiatives like this amendment aren't new. Efforts to single out gays and lesbians for unequal treatment have been proposed and often adopted many times in the last 30 years. Back in 1978, a conservative state senator in California named John Briggs began an initiative to prohibit homosexuals from holding jobs as teachers. Now, I grant that this was California, but remember it was also 1978 and early polls showed 2 - 1 support for the Briggs Initiative. But something unexpected happened in August of that year, as the initiative headed toward a vote. The Governor of California wrote a newspaper editorial opposing the Briggs Initiative on the grounds that it singled out a group of people for unequal treatment under the law. The Governor wrote that the initiative had, "the potential of infringing on basic rights of privacy and perhaps even constitutional rights." Who was that 'activist' governor? Was it Governor Jerry 'Moonbeam' Brown? No, that governor was named Ronald Reagan. Governor Reagan's opposition to the Briggs Initiative is credited with turning the tide and when the final votes were cast, the Briggs Initiative was defeated. Writer Jonathan Rauch wrote in The New York Times that "Mr. Reagan single-handedly turned the tide against the measure."
For Reagan, on the cusp of launching his bid for President of the United States and asking for Republican delegate votes in Alabama and Mississippi, opposing the Briggs Initiative was a breathtakingly courageous act of principle. I will always admire and be inspired by Ronald Reagan's unswerving commitment to principle; whether standing up to an evil Soviet Empire, or standing against antigay ballot initiatives.
We don't know where Ronald Reagan, if he had all of his faculties, would stand on the resolution before us today. He may well have been in support. But before you assert that he would be, listen to what best-selling conservative author Dinesh D'Souza writes in his biography of Reagan, Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader, a biography highly praised by Rush Limbaugh, Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley and P.J. O'Roarke. D'Souza writes, "Reagan's views on homosexuality were not entirely compatible with those of his evangelical Christian supporters or with those of the gay rights community. Before he became President, he once confessed his belief that homosexuality is a 'tragic illness'...Yet, as we might expect, Reagan knew lots of gays in Hollywood, and he and his wife socialized with people who were avowedly homosexual. Reagan did not support state-sponsored discrimination against homosexuals as a group."
Reagan Biographer Lou Cannon, who covered Reagan as a reporter for the Washington Post and San Jose News for 36 years wrote in his book Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power about Reagan's views on gay issues. Cannon, when referring to later accounts of gay couples, friends of Nancy's that would spend the night with their partners at the White House, wrote, "The sentiment about Reagan's tolerance is accurate - Reagan would a decade later play a pivotal and courageous role in defeating a ballot initiative that discriminated against homosexual teachers."
For those extremists on the left who so frequently and unfairly denounce Reagan as a bigot or a homophobe, listen to this passage from a November 2003 Time magazine article by Ronald and Nancy Reagan's daughter, Patti. Patti Davis wrote, "I was about eight or nine years old when I learned that some people are gay...what I do remember is the clear, smooth, non-judgmental way in which I was told...My father and I were watching an old Rock Hudson and Doris Day movie. At the moment when Hudson and Doris Day kissed, I said to my father, 'That looks weird.' Curious, he asked me to identify exactly what was weird about a man and a woman kissing, since I'd certainly seen such a thing before. All I knew was that something about this particular man and woman was, to me, strange. My father gently explained that Mr. Hudson didn't really have a lot of experience kissing women; in fact he would much prefer kissing a man. This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes, and I accepted without question that this kissing thing wasn't reserved for just men and women."
Again, I stress that I have no idea what President Reagan would do or say about this resolution before us today, if he could be here with us. But I do know that the number of well-known and highly regarded conservatives who oppose both state and federal constitutional amendments to define marriage is growing rapidly. Those already on the record opposing such amendments include: George Will, William Safire, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, Lyn Nofzinger who was President Reagan' press secretary, commentator Andrew Sullivan, David Horowitz, Republican Rep. Bob Simmons, and a growing number of elected Republicans and conservative writer and talk show hosts.
My friends, today, before us we have an important choice. We can vote with the courage of our convictions, or we can vote out of fear.
I urge my colleagues to reject scapegoating, political expediency, and hypocrisy. Please stand up for equal protection under the law and for human equality by voting 'No' on this proposed amendment. And may the venomous serpent of discrimination and unequal treatment of people never again slither through the doors of this chamber.