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Marriage Equality

WATCH: Michiganders Plan to Counter Antigay Billboards

WATCH: Michiganders Plan to Counter Antigay Billboards


The anti-marriage equality billboards proclaim, 'Homosexuality is a behavior. Not a civil right.'

A coalition of right-wing groups has put up anti-marriage equality billboards in Michigan and, via a website, is urging Americans to send letters calling on Congress to remove the jurisdiction of all federal courts over marriage.

The coalition, Restrain the Judges, has been operating for a few months, but the first news of its billboards came this week from Michigan. Drivers reported seeing what is apparently the first billboard on a busy street in Dearborn Heights, a suburb of Detroit.

It displays images electronically, showing a picture of a person with wording referring to his or her ethnicity, such as "Born White," "Born Black," "Born Asian," and then a photo with rainbow colors imposed over a person's face, accompanied by the words "Not Born This Way." It also says, "Homosexuality is a behavior. Not a civil right," and refers viewers to Bible verses.

Additional billboards are scheduled to be set up in Michigan cities Flint, Grand Rapids, and Lansing, reports the Macomb Daily News, a Detroit-area paper. But marriage equality supporters have plans to counter them.

Ferman Smith, a college student and Uber driver who noticed the Dearborn Heights billboard Wednesday and posted a picture of it to Facebook, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to put up competing billboard ads with a message of equality around the Detroit metropolitan region. It has raised $2,000 so far out of a $50,000 goal. Any money not spent on the ads will go to the Human Rights Campaign and the No H8 Campaign.

Smith and his passenger "both just gasped" when they saw the billboard, he told the Daily News. "We are all entitled to free speech, which is the beauty of this country, but everyone deserves respect as well, and this billboard was created solely to get a rise out of the community," said Smith, who is gay.

On his GoFundMe page, he added, "The City of Dearborn Heights has no jurisdiction over the billboard, nor do any other municipalities that they are located in. The billboard company also isn't at fault here, they're just trying to run a business and we should all respect that." But he is determined to get a competing message out. "I'm not trying to play Superman. I'm just a struggling college student with aspirations to make a difference," he told the Daily News.

Mark Gurley, a spokesman for Restrain the Judges, told Detroit TV station WDIV (watch below) the billboards were not meant to be antigay. "The issue here doesn't have anything to do, at the end of the day, with the gay community," he said. "It has everything to do with protecting freedom of religion" -- ignoring the fact that even with nationwide marriage equality, no church would be required to perform a same-sex marriage.

Restrain the Judges, on its website, allows supporters to send, for a fee, letters to members of Congress urging them "to use the authority granted by the U.S. Constitution" to remove the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and all other federal courts over the issue of marriage. Antigay U.S. Rep. Steve King has introduced a bill to do just that, but it's been pointed out that Congress is unlikely to strip the courts of jurisdiction over any matter, plus such a measure would be filibustered by Senate Democrats and, in the unlikely event it passed Congress, vetoed by President Obama.

The Restrain the Judges site, which offers to send the letters to Supreme Court justices as well, refers to the letters as "restraining orders," but they are by no means the legally binding sort one gets from a judge. Among the members of Restrain the Judges are Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Vision America Action, the right-wing blog BarbWire, Conservative Republicans of Texas, and the American Family Association's Pennsylvania affiliate.

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