Group wants 2016 vote on gay marriage ban if court case fails

(Detroit Free Press) -- Gay rights advocates launched a public relations campaign today across Michigan in what they said was a fresh start to persuading Michiganders that the state's ban on gay marriage should be overturned.

"Our roadmap to victory calls for work on two tracks," said Emily Dievendorf, executive director of Detroit-based Equality Michigan.

The first step is to continue with a court challenge "but if we don't get a favorable ruling, we intend on overturning Michigan's ban by ballot initiative in 2016," said Dievendorf in a news release.

RELATED: Mich. AG files brief defending gay marriage ban

Joining Equality Michigan in the campaign is the ACLU of Michigan and New York City-based Freedom to Marry, which is pushing similar "education campaigns" in a dozen states, said Richard Carlbom, the group's state campaigns director.

"Think of this as a presidential campaign, bringing this to the voters across the country," Carlbom said.

Ending Michigan's gay marriage ban would promote values of "stability, responsibility and, most importantly, family" among gays and lesbians, said Sommer Foster, director of political advocacy at Equality Michigan.

At a news conference at the Oakland County Commissioners Auditoriumin Pontiac, Foster introduced a gay couple who she said deserved to be allowed to be married.

Robert Tompkins, 29, and Jamiil Gaston, 23, live in Oak Park and said they want to marry and stay in Michigan.

"Our friends support us, our families support us, and this is our home,'' said Tomkins, a technical training specialist at Marygrove College in Detroit.

Two Republican former state lawmakers stood with the couple, both saying that their party needs to shift on the gay-marriage issue.

"My message to my friends in the Republican Party is, for those whose hearts have changed, this is not a time to be a bystander," said Chris Ward, who was a state representative from 2002 to 2008for the district that includes Brighton and Milford.

Ward, who is divorced, said he is not gay but said he feels strongly that "freedom does not stop in the bedroom."

Former state representative Leon Drolet of Macomb Township said he was one of only three Republicans in the state House in 2004 to oppose Michigan's gay-marriage ban.

"I view this as being consistent with my principles that government should treat everybody equally, without regard to race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation."


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