LANSING, Mich. (MIRS News) – On Thursday, freshman Rep. and LGBTQ+ Caucus member Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) announced the introduction of 51 bills and a House joint resolution he said would codify marriage equality in Michigan.
In a tweet he posted on Thursday, Morgan was seen smiling on the Capitol lawn while displaying the giant stack of legislation, which he said is sponsored by nearly half the House.
“I walked to the Capitol with a stack of 52 bills to codify marriage equality in Michigan! This package is sponsored by nearly half of the House of Representatives. pride [1/4] pic.twitter.com/GojKMbjoME
— Jason Morgan (he|him) (@JasonMorganMI) June 15, 2023
In a subsequent interview with MIRS, Morgan said the package is something he’s been working on since his first day in the legislature, and if you’ve seen him in the Capitol in the months since, there was a good chance he was carrying giant stacks of bills back and forth.
He spearheaded the package’s introduction because while same-sex marriage is currently protected by a U.S. Supreme Court case, “the overturning of Roe v. Wade has made it clear how precarious our rights truly are,” Morgan said.
Codifying marriage equality in the state constitution would ensure the document reflects the equality a majority of Michiganders value and support, he said, along with protecting those who don’t fall under the definition of a marriage “between a man and women,” as many Michigan laws currently read.
Morgan added that the issue is personal for him, as he is happily engaged to his fiance, Jon, and the pair plan to be married in October.
Jon moved from his hometown in Wisconsin to Michigan so that the two could be together, Morgan said.
“It feels like the least our state could do now is ensure our marriage is protected,” he said.
Morgan’s legislation begins with HJR F, which proposes an amendment to the state constitution removing the provision that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The joint resolution requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to pass the chambers. Upon its passage, a ballot initiative would be triggered for the next general election.
Morgan said he thought long and hard about undertaking the difficult process ahead of introducing the resolution, but concluded that the issue was too important not to try and do everything possible to advance it.
He acknowledged that the process of codifying marriage equality wouldn’t be just a month-long endeavor, but in the meantime, Morgan said he’s also focusing on the other 51 bills in the package.
These remove all references to gender in Michigan’s state laws, including marriage and divorce provisions.
Morgan said there are still lots of laws referencing “husband and wife” in statute, but because of the Supreme Court ruling, “we just simply ignore that language” when administering marriages and overseeing divorce proceedings.
He said it’s necessary to clean up those old laws and make sure they accurately reflect Michigan values, regardless of the support received for the joint resolution.
That includes amending a House bill defining marriage, which Rep. Julie BRIXIE (D-Okemos) formally introduced via HB 4775, removing provisions that marriage be between “a man and a woman” and changing the language to “two parties.”
Morgan said the bills remove outdated language like that from more than 50 state statutes, changing provisions referring to “mother and father” to read “parents,” “husband and wife” to “a spouse” and updating references to women who change their name after marriage to refer simply to “individuals.”
The bills amend language within the farmland and open space preservation statute, the liquor control act, the income tax act, the funeral expenses of veterans statute, the mental health code, the drain code of 1956, the sex offenders registration act, the community property act, Michigan’s divorce code, the social welfare act, the estate tax act, Michigan’s penal code and even references within the potato industry commission, to name a few.
Morgan said another LGBTQ+ Caucus member, Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park), was instrumental in his work on the package.
“We want to protect Mike’s marriage to his husband and my ability to marry my fiancé this year,” he said, “along with every person’s right to marry who they love.”
But Morgan added that bill sponsorships have been spread throughout the caucus, with the intention of giving everyone who wants the opportunity to be included a chance to sponsor a bill.
He said a large majority of the Democratic caucus are individual bill sponsors, along with 46 cosponsors of the joint resolution.
The bills have been referred to the House Government Operations Committee.