On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, as of the hour of this writing, two states (Maine and Maryland) passed public referendums granting full marriage rights to same-sex couples. Washington state is still counting the votes, but appears likely to go the same way, ultimately increasing the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal to 9. Minnesota (my home state) became the first state ever to defeat a public referendum that would have amended the state constitution to permanently ban same-sex marriage.
My husband and I are breathing a sigh of relief. We're sleeping a bit better tonight.
I am aware that those who supported the proposed constitutional amendment (47% of Minnesota voters) were concerned about protecting family and religious freedom. They were concerned about the welfare of children. I know that. I understand it and I empathize with it. Because I am concerned about all those things too.
I know that from the perspective of many people in this country, what I have -- a committed, 20-year-long relationship with a man, and a home that has sheltered and that we hope will continue to shelter foster or adoptive children -- many don't consider to be a family. But in that relationship, in this home, I have experienced love, nurture and healing, I have learned about sacrifice and patience. I have cared for others and seen them thrive ever more fully into their potentials; and their love for me has enabled me to reach heights I never could have reached on my own.
I grew up in a home headed by a man and a woman. And what I have, what I've created with my husband of 20 years, feels the same as what I grew up in. I've certainly applied with my husband and foster kids the same principles I learned from my parents. And my parents and brothers and sisters and all those who know us well and love us recognize what we've built as something of the same cloth as any of the best families headed by one man and one woman.
See, I do have a family. I love my family. And I am fiercely protective of it. So if you love your family, perhaps you can understand why I've been willing to put everything on the line to prevent mine from being denigrated or discriminated against under the law. We only want what you already have, what you get to take for granted.
I have faith too. I have a relationship with God. That faith has centered me in my life. It's steadied me and strengthened me, and made it possible for me to find greater joy in my family. It's given me the principles that have enabled me to make my family a success. And I know the history of my country, and what freedom of religion means. And so I value it for you as much as I value it for myself.
This round in the polls left me feeling a little freer, a little more protected, a little more respected, a little more equal. (See, my relationship is still not legally recognized here in MN. I had to work really hard just to prevent an amendment to the constitution that would deny me any hope of future equality under the law.) And I just don't see how this round at the polls has taken anything away from you.
Last week I went to Salt Lake City and spoke at a conference that had generated quite a bit of controversy. The controversy centered around the fact that two gay men who were married to women were invited to participate in the conference. Lots of people who support same-sex marriage rights see gay men in this situation as political pawns, used to undermine the rights of same-sex couples. Some of my friends sent me worried emails, concerned about my participation in such a conference.
But I choose not to view anybody as pawns. I choose not to depersonalize them or invalidate their choices in that way. I choose to see these gay men and their wives as individuals who have the right to make choices for themselves, and to pursue their own happiness as they see fit. I have consistently defended these individuals' choices because I share with these men belief in a particular religious/moral precept: "all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets."
When I go to Church, when I go to work, when I interact with my neighbors, I don't see families in the abstract. I see Sheila and Bruce, Mike and Amy, Warren and Iris, Betty and Sarah. And I see their kids and in-laws, their friends and cousins and grandkids. And they see us as John and Göran, and our foster son Glen. Real people, real relationships. Spouses, parents, kids. Families, communities. I don't get how making my family safer makes any of their families less safe. Real neighborhoods, real communities don't work that way. In real communities, each family that is a little safer and more stable makes that community safer and more stable for every other family.
So you may look at the outcome of this vote and feel like you've lost. But I can't help but look at it and feel that you've actually won.