Michigan's marriage amendment barred from ballot

No one denies that Citizens for the Protection of Marriage has enough signatures to put a state constitutional amendment on Michigan's November 2 ballot. The organization needed around 317,700 signatures, but got 480,000 of them.

But yesterday, the four-member Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked, thus blocking the amendment from appearing on the ballot.

"Democratic Canvasser Doyle O'Connor said the board should not place an amendment before voters that would be 'patently unlawful' and certain to be struck down by the courts if approved," the Detroit Free Press reports. "O'Connor sided with opponents of the marriage proposal who claim it would nullify existing benefits for unmarried partners offered by universities, local governments and private corporations, in addition to restricting marriage to heterosexual couples. To do so, he said, would violate other constitutional protections and 'could never be enforced. We know the courts would set it aside.'"

Huh. A constitutional amendment would be unlawful? That's odd. I wonder what other constitutional clauses are unlawful. Ooh! Maybe the whole separation of powers thing is illegal! Maybe Article II Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution is illegal! Here's what it says, after explaining how many signatures a petition to amend the constitution requires:

Any amendment proposed by such petition shall be submitted, not less than 120 days after it was filed, to the electors at the next general election. Such proposed amendment, existing provisions of the constitution which would be altered or abrogated thereby, and the question as it shall appear on the ballot shall be published in full as provided by law.

Huh. Nothing in there about the Board of State Canvassers needing to prophesy about what the courts might say. Let's check Michigan Election Law 168.841, which describes the duties of the canvassers. Huh. Nothing there about prognosticating, or in playing judge to decide if constitutional amendments are constitutional. (For what it's worth, constitutional amendments usually aren't constitutional. You see, that's why someone's going through all the trouble of amending the constitution. Because they think something in the constitution needs changing. Change, by the way, is a synonym for amend.)

The Associated Press quotes O'Connor as saying, "There comes a point when we have to say, 'No, this doesn't and can't fly.'"

Funny. One would have thought that the point of having constitutional amendments allowed by petition was that such question can be left to the voters.

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And now it's a question for the Michigan Court of Appeals. Citizens for the Protection of Marriage is taking its case there today.

Meanwhile, Louisiana is involved in a similar battle over a state constitutional marriage amendment. As Weblog writes, the vote is on again. By the time you read it, it may be off again. Yesterday, the state's 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that a lawsuit seeking to block the amendment from the September 18 ballot was "premature," since state law requires challenges to come after the election, not before. Lawsuits focusing on less technical matters are working their way through other Louisiana courts.

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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