Thursday, May 8, 2008

Getting personal about life in Michigan

This is not a personal blog. But as the adage goes, the personal is political.

Michigan's Supreme Court has interpreted the marriage amendment to the state constitution as prohibiting employee health benefits being extended to same-sex partners. Fine.

The papers this morning are touting arrangements made by state universities with a work around that involves terms like "other qualified adult" and "other eligible individual." Gays and lesbians in Michigan are supposed to be grateful for the creativity of university legal teams. Statistically, there won't be a lot of people directly affected, so what does it matter?

Here's how it matters. Our state, this state, has unabashedly enshrined in law heterosexual privilege. Some readers may think that I just used a bit of radical jargon. Too bad.

What Michigan now has is a system that assures special rights for heterosexual married people by denying employment benefits to another group. In effect, the state constitution says that if you are in a heterosexual marriage you are more worthy of health insurance and other benefits that accrue to the partners of employees.

A large number of Michigan citizens are fine with this, because they benefit, because it fits with their world view, because they believe in their heart of hearts that marriage is the cornerstone of civilized society, because they believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, because it affirms them. It works for them.

But this won't work for a forward-looking Michigan. Neither will high teen drop-out rates, high unemployment, outsourcing, falling income, weak pollution laws, a structural deficit in the state budget, a paternalistic employment culture, lack of appreciation for higher education, and legal immunity for big pharma.

For those of you committed to a progressive Michigan, there is no discernible end point.

While some have tried to advocate for a progressive Michigan through writing,words will not be sufficient to bring forth a progressive Michigan.

It will take action. Boots on the ground.

For you progressives committed to the long battle, I have the deepest respect, appreciation and awe.

Saturday, many will gather for the Progressive Policy Summit in Lansing. That event couldn't come at a better time for the state and the progressive community.

Time to regroup, reconnect, refresh and ready for the work ahead.