Michigan Marriage Center Prepares State For The Possibility!

By Crystal A. Proxmire

With the potential for same sex marriages to be permitted in Michigan, couples who want to tie the knot should be ready. But what clerks and clergy are ready for them? Equality Michigan has launched their Marriage Center section of their website to help connect couples with the resources they need to efficiently tie the knot should there be a small window of opportunity to do so once Judge Friedman rules in late February.

The site lists all 83 counties in Michigan, with the goal of learning the position of the clerk in each. Some clerks, like those in Washtenaw and Oakland County, are eager to recognize couples' commitments to each other. But some counties are more likely to refuse. Additionally, not all those capable of officiating weddings are welcome to the idea.

But by identifying clergy that want to perform marriages equally, Equality Michigan is making it easier for LGBT couples in the state. Over 80 clergy from multiple faiths, including nondenominational groups, have signed up on the site so far.

"Commitment is good for people, both individually and collectively," said Rabbi Robert Levy of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor. Rabbi Levy has been doing commitment ceremonies for over a decade, stating the importance of "ritually helping people express their loving commitment," and calling the need for it "obvious."

"Marriage is a societally acknowledged committed relationship. It demonstrates community support of personal decisions. It is a structure for further human growth," he said.

On the west side of the state, Rev. Bill Freeman serves couples out of three churches: All Spirits Soul Center in Holland, Harbor Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Muskegon and United Church of Christ in Muskegon. His photo on the Equality Michigan Marriage Center page stands out because it shows Rev. Freeman holding up numbers like in a mug shot.

"The photo is of me, made to look like a mug shot, because I was arrested and convicted in Holland, Michigan for civil disobedience (trespassing) for 'occupying' Holland City Hall after it closed, to draw attention to the unequal treatment of the LGBT community there," Rev. Freeman said.

"For five years I've been performing same-sex weddings. I do weddings, not civil unions or commitment ceremonies," Rev. Freeman said. "It's not my fault, and certainly not the couple's fault, that they can't get a marriage certificate in Michigan."

To Rev. Freeman, "Marriage is the coming together of two sacred souls who love each other and desire to be one family. Families, according to conservative groups, are the backbone of society. When two people love each other and want to spend their lives together, it's not just good, it's sensational (and not sinful). People should get married: if they can't live without each other, if they finish each other's sentences (and sandwiches) and if not doing so would leave a hole in their heart that nothing else could fill."

Equality Michigan's Marriage Center is an ever-growing resource. There are links for those who want to be part of it, a place to sign up for email notices about marriage equality news, and info on how to connect with county clerks to encourage them to recognize marriage equality.

"The train of history is heading for same-sex marriage rights in America in the near future; I just hope Michigan isn't that train's caboose," Rev. Freeman said.

For more information go to http://www.equalitymi.org/marriage.

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