One Lawmaker's Idea to Take Government Out of the Marriage Business

No matter what gay-rights advocates and same-sex marriage supporters might believe, Michigan state Rep. Todd Courser proclaimed he has no intention of blocking homosexual marriages.

But he would love to get government out of the marriage business. Courser also wants to protect members of the religious community who believe performing a gay wedding ceremony would violate their beliefs.

Courser and fellow GOP Rep. Cindy Gamrat have introduced legislation that would end the government licensing of marriages in Michigan, along with ending the practice of couples tying the knot before a government official in a municipal ceremony.

The LGBT community erupted in outrage after Courser and Gamrat introduced the legislation June 14, accusing the Republican pair of taking preemptive action to block the impact of a Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this week on a case in which Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee are co-defendants. The justices will decide if the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

He has promised to withdraw both pieces of legislation if the U.S. Supreme Court should decide not to sanction gay marriages. But most legal experts are betting that will not happen. And Courser figures, why take a chance?

“Right now, as it sits with the decision from our U.S. Supreme Court looming, our elected officials could be forced to perform same sex marriages; if this happens then the liberal left will use this Supreme Court decision as a hammer to advance their liberal agenda,” Courser said when he and Gamrat introduced House Bill 4733.

“It is incredibly important that if the Supreme Court rules against traditional marriage that our elected officials are not forced to violate their conscience and be forced to perform gay marriages,” Courser added.

But four days later, Courser released a 947-word press releasing claiming his legislation was not intended to block gay marriages in Michigan.

“I believe people should be free to choose for themselves how they will live. I do not believe, like so many of my detractors, that the power of government should be used to impose a particular view of morality on anyone,” Courser wrote.

“It shouldn't be used by the Christian community to do so; it shouldn't be used by the secular progressives to do so and it shouldn't be used by the gay and lesbian agenda to do so.”

The Michigan LGBT community doesn’t believe it.

"This type of rhetoric represents the new wave of discrimination tactics designed to divide people into classes," Gina Calcagno of Michigan for Marriage told Between the Lines, a gay publication in Detroit.

"The Courser bills represent state sanctioned discrimination and rewrites what religious freedom and equal protection under the law means. Equality and fairness are not principles that are decided on a case-by-case basis,” she added.

Courser said it seemed obvious the LGBT community had not read his legislation.

“They just want to attack me and my efforts to bring a thoughtful discussion about what the country will look like if the Supreme Court rules to throw out thousands of years of Judeo-Christian values,” Courser said.

“The bills were put forward as a first step to divest government from marriage, essentially deregulating marriage from the clutches of the government.”

Courser’s legislation would leave the decision of whether or not to marry a couple completely in the hands of the religious community. Pastors would have total discretion over whether or not to perform a gay marriage ceremony.

Atheists or agnostics who would prefer not to have a religious ceremony would be allowed to sign an affidavit attesting to their marriage, and be done with it.

So under Courser’s legislation, the argument over whether Michigan’s government should be forced under the U.S. Constitution to license same-sex marriages would be null and void. It would all be in the hands of the state’s religious community.

But Courser does not want to unfairly burden the religious community either. That is why he has introduced the “Pastors Protection Act.” It would prevent government action against pastors who decline to perform gay marriages.

“Regardless of what the media is saying, pastors and people of faith are, every day now, being forced to forgo their religious freedoms. It is wrong and the power of the government should not be used to force people to act against their religion. However, that is exactly what is happening now in America,” Courser said.

Courser might not want to stop religious people from performing gay weddings, but he does have a very strong belief that same-sex marriages are wrong, in the eyes of God.

“I grieve for our nation as we take one step after another to deny the deity of God and who He is,” he wrote. “As we step further and further away from Him and His Holy word we lose His protection for ourselves, our families, our communities, our states and of course our Nation!”