A Sienna Heights and The Foundation sponsored community event The Constitution in Action: Celebrating Constitution Day was held in the Meyer Theater on the oft neglected holiday (or Citizenship Day).
Guest speaker Chief Judge Pro Tem Christopher Murray gave a brief overview of the ratification and implementation of the monumental document. He described the issues he sees with amendments made in recent years, arguing that the power of state government has been compromised by the federal government’s enacting of laws that individual states feel opposed to.
He argued that a controversial law that is enacted statewide interferes with the democratic process. He specifically mentioned the Supreme Court’s decision to lawfully recognize homosexual marriage across all 50 states.
“It depends on what side of the fence you’re on,” Murray said. “The public opinion is changing.”
He cited Michigan’s 2004 Proposal 04-2 that made it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriage or even civil unions. In the spring of 2014 a federal judge ruled Michigan’s ban itself as unconstitutional, although this was later suspended. Eight months later the United States Court of Appeals overturned the lower court, stating
"When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers. Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”
“If you’re against gay marriage in Michigan, and everyone votes in favor of having gay marriage, okay fine. I think most people would say ‘If that’s the will of the people then that’s the will of the people.’ If you don’t like it move to a state that doesn’t allow it,” Murray said, receiving audience applause.
Murray continued saying that when the Supreme Court tells us that we have to “accept” gay marriage it brings into question where the power really belongs. If there is no specific ruling on an issue in the Constitution then it should be left to states to decide what should be lawful or unlawful.
Joanna Sabo said that historically the Supreme Court has used the ambiguity of the Constitution for broader interpretations, made individually by the states. She maintains this is why the Constitution has remained effective for over two centuries.
Murray expressed how he believed one should act in face of jobs that ask for perform duties that conflict with religious beliefs. He described his frequent experiences where minors under the age of 16 seeking an abortion can secretly come to court with a layer to ask for the court’s permission to have an abortion without informing their parents.
“Well, I’m Catholic so, you know,” he paused. “I didn’t even know this process existed when I became a judge.”
So when asking himself what he would do, Murray said,
“Well that’s my job. I have to apply the law that’s there. And I had other judges, a judge who is a colleague of mine, who absolutely refused―wouldn’t let them in the door.”
MCCC students performed a skit which depicted a female couple standing in line to receive a marriage license. The clerk in this performance refused to process the license, stating her religious beliefs prevented her from performing her duty. The couple returned with a court order, an attorney and a police officer. The clerk was arrested and the deputy clerk took her place and finally enabled the couple their right to be married, nullifying the statement the first clerk tried to make.