Senate Says No to Civil Unions
Protesters disrupt debate; final vote on constitutional amendment likely on Tuesday
For the second time in six days, senators have rejected civil unions as a potential middle ground in the gay-marriage debate.
On a 36-11 party-line vote, the Senate shot down a proposal by Anderson Democrat Tim Lanane to delete a ban on civil unions from a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The Senate Judiciary Committee had rejected a similar attempt by Lanane last week.
Lanane points to legal scholars who warn language banning recognition of "a legal status identical to or substantially similar to that of marriage" for same-sex couples could invalidate health benefits for unmarried couples, both homosexual and heterosexual.
Other legal experts disagree, and supporters of a ban argue businesses quickly found a way around a Michigan Supreme Court ruling on that state's constitutional amendment.
Lanane also proposed altering the amendment to explicitly leave future legislatures the option of legalizing civil unions. The Senate rejected that idea on an identical 36-11 vote.
The votes clear the way for a final vote on the constitutional amendment as early as Tuesday. The amendment would then sit in drydock until 2013 or 2014, when a newly elected legislature must reapprove it to send it to the voters.
Gay-rights supporters packed the Senate gallery and began singing and chanting when Lanane stood to open debate on the amendment. State police cleared and locked the gallery, though protesters in the hallway could still be heard in the chamber for several minutes.