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April 16, 2014

Royal Oak urges state leaders to drop same-sex marriage appeal

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — Citing taxpayer dollars and changing sentiments toward same-sex marriage, the City Commission approved a resolution April 7 urging Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to drop the appeal against a federal judge’s decision that Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle, who introduced the resolution, said that the city’s passage of the human rights ordinance — which, among other things, makes discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation unlawful — in November 2013 was a stance in support of equality.

“Royal Oak, in my eyes, has made a statement that we are supportive of equal rights for all,” Mahrle said. “And I think that we as a commission, should support the will of the voters of Royal Oak and pass this resolution to urge Gov. Snyder and the attorney general to withdraw this appeal as soon as possible.”

The vote was 4-1. Commissioner Peggy Goodwin abstained from the vote and Mayor Pro Tem David Poulton was the lone dissenting vote.

Commissioner Mike Fournier was absent from the meeting.

Goodwin said she supported the human rights ordinance because it was a local issue, but a matter at the state level should not be on the city’s agenda.

“I just don’t believe it belongs at the City Commission,” she said.

Poulton said that the attorney general had every right to appeal the judge’s decision.

“We don’t need to tell the attorney general to do this or that or the other,” he said. “We just need to abide by the legal process.”

A federal judge ruled in March that Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, saying it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The defendants, listed as Schuette and Snyder, are appealing the judge’s decision to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

“My responsibility as attorney general to defend the Michigan Constitution and the voters’ decision to define marriage is important, and the sooner we reach a final resolution from the courts, the better,” said Schuette in a statement.

Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said signs that a majority of Royal Oak residents support same-sex marriage date back further than just last year.

Instead, he points to the local results of the 2004 election when Michigan voters passed the Michigan Marriage Amendment, defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

While it passed statewide, Royal Oak was one of the rare communities to vote against it.

“Therefore, it’s only more appropriate that we speak out against this as the City of Royal Oak, having been opposed to this marriage ban 10 years ago,” DuBuc said.

He called the decision to appeal a “criminal waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“I say we send this message loud and clear to the attorney general and the governor,” DuBuc said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.