Did the panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals deciding National Pride at Work v Governor consider the economic ripple effect of their decision? As Laura Berman and Scott Bassett point out below, think “Brain Drain.” I agree with Scott, who said in a post yesterday on the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Listserv: “Lest anyone think this has no link to family law, keep in mind the role an economic downturn plays on family stress and marital breakdown.”
I believe that the issue of non-traditional families is one that impacts family law, family lawyers, and our court systems every day. Non-traditional families? Yes, you heard me—I used the "F word.” I’m talking about families. What makes them, what breaks them, and what determines where they will live and work. So I’m up here on my soapbox, and if you’re not interested, just hit the delete key.
Demographic studies by Pamela Smock of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan clearly show that the days of the “traditional family,” [you know—like Ozzie, Harriet, David and Rickie] are gone. See: Smock, Pamela. Living Together Unmarried in the United States: Demographic Perspectives and Implications for Family Policy.
As Laura Berman of the Detroit News wrote today:
"A team of 90 scientists just issued a new report describing global-warming as man-made. Those who wish to avoid the heat ought to visit chilly Michigan, where voters and the courts are icing up our own, entirely man-made frosty social climate for, well, some people.
Isn't it ironic that, just as Michigan's economy tanks, the state is getting more stand-offish by the minute? We might as well announce: Take your educated, your skilled, your scholarly gay intellectuals and Ph.D.s, your out-of-state minority students. Keep 'em. Never mind that some of these may be top-tier job seekers likely to find other states more welcoming.”
Scott Bassett, a family appellate lawyer who practices Michigan law from Bradenton, Florida, added his comments on the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Listserv. He wrote:
"Laura Bergman's article highlights the economic impact of prejudice. We had a similar debate a short while ago (2005) down here in the Tampa Bay area. The Hillsborough County (which includes the City of Tampa) Board of Commissioners adopted some gay-unfriendly policies (banning government recognition of gay pride events) in the guise of promoting "family friendly" tourism. That didn't sit well with the City of Tampa or the local tourism bureau, which subtly promotes itself as a tourist destination for gays (as do Pinellas Count and St. Pete across the bay). As a result, Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County have lost much of the gay tourism business.
"This reminds me of the Montgomery bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks and led by Dr. King when he was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association. When faced with bigotry and prejudice, the targeted group will take its business elsewhere. The economic impact will be felt. and will eventually lead to a change in policy as the general public feels the pain. The public may talk "values" in their own parochial sense of the work (and will even vote that way initially), but when they take a severe hit in the wallet, they usually come around and vote for their own economic survival. Or they will vote with their feet and leave, taking their skills, education, and income with them. Unfortunately, Michigan is not in a strong position to absorb another economic hit.
"Lest anyone think this has no link to family law, keep in mind the role an economic downturn plays on family stress and marital breakdown. As the central institution in our society, the family is affected by many of the negative things that happen in the economy and in politics. We have not yet advanced to the point where our leaders who talk the family values game are willing to promote policies which truly value families in all of their many configurations. In a state where judges are elected on the ballot along side other offices, they too are public officials with some responsibility for showing leadership on the question of valuing families and the dignity of each person. side other offices, they too are public officials with some responsibility for showing leadership on the question of valuing families and the dignity of each person."
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