Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Fight Over Marriage Comes to Minnesota

It hasn't been fun watching the same-sex marriage debate roiling other states. Until now, the gay marriage debate has been an abstract issue for Minnesotans. Previous efforts to amend the Minnesota state constitution were stopped in the legislature. But in the last election, Republicans took over the Minnesota state legislature (even as they lost the governor's mansion), and now Republicans in the legislature have put an anti-gay-marriage amendment on the ballot for 2012. (The voting in the legislature has been almost totally along party lines, with only a couple of Republicans joining Democrats in opposition to a marriage amendment.) So now we get to have a public referendum on same-sex relationships.

Recent polls are showing that a majority of Americans favor same-sex marriage, and a a majority of Minnesotans oppose banning same-sex marriage. Both sides claim polling data in Minnesota that supports their position. And as we know from the Prop 8 campaign in California, public opinion can change in the course of a campaign. So for these reasons, and also because Minnesota is currently seen -- both by gay marriage opponents and by gay marriage supporters -- as a bellwether for the nation, it looks likely that national organizers on both sides of this issue will get involved here. Which means we could be in for a fight, and it could get ugly.

This is not something I am constitutionally capable of sitting through on the side lines. Even if I wanted to keep silent and let others fight this fight, every molecule in my body would force me to my feet, to get out of the house, and to open my mouth. Bottom line, I'm getting involved. I've joined the Faith Steering Committee of OutFront Minnesota.

The mood of many GLBT folks here is gloomy. Many do not look forward to having the merits of our lives, our love, and our families publicly debated and demeaned in the way that only politics can demean.

But I am not gloomy. I am glad, and I am excited. Public opinion is evenly divided which means we can win this. And I believe that, since we live in a Democracy, the only way a lasting resolution of this problem will ultimately be brought about is not in a court, and not by executive fiat, and not even in a legislature, but by the voice of the people. Minnesotans now have an opportunity to discuss, not legal finery or constitutional procedure, but substantive values and real lives. If we do this, if we talk about our lives, and about why love, family and commitment matter to us, we will win.

Gay folks are a small minority everywhere, so it is frightening and dismaying to have our lives, our rights, and our families voted on by majorities. But our opponents aren't bigots, they're just afraid because they don't understand. If we stop looking at those who oppose same-sex marriage as our enemy, and start looking at them as folks who just don't know us well enough yet to be our friends, we will find the voice that will enable us to tell our stories in a way that will reach and touch real people and make a difference. If we just have patience and faith, and if we show kindness, we will find friends in unexpected places.

We must not be fearful, and we must not be dismayed. We must find the hope and the courage that only love can inspire.

If you live in Minnesota, and, gay or straight, you want to help, let's talk!


Knight of Nothing said...

Great post. I was dismayed and disappointed by the GOP's passing of this amendment resolution, but I agree - this should not be a cause for gloom.

I think the desperation is rather on the other side of this issue: the people against same-sex marriage are beginning to recognize that they are on the losing side of this argument. Even the new head of Focus on Family seems to have conceded defeat (see this).

It's too bad that so much money will be spent, and so much divisive, hurtful rhetoric will be shouted. But each year, marriage equality is becoming more uncontroversial and mainstream. And having a calm voice like yours will accelerate that trend.

Unknown said...

Good luck to all of those in Minnesota. My gut tells me everything will be all right... we'll see.

Fall of 2012 will be a heck of a ride.

John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Sam - I followed the link from the article over to the actual interview with Jim Daly, here.

I don't know why it wasn't obvious to folks on that side from the beginning that nothing prevents religious bodies from setting standards as high as they want (or as high as their members will tolerate).

It sort of reminds me of how Congregationalist leaders after the American Revolution fought the separation of church and state tooth and claw, only to realize that disestablishment made their churches STRONGER. Similarly, clarifying the difference between civil marriage as a right that should be available to all, and religious marriage that is defined by standards of faith, may actually help strengthen religious communities and marriage.

Knight of Nothing said...

Indeed! The lesson seems to be lost on gay marriage opponents.

Steven B said...

So, remember the "I'm a Mormon" video campaign? Perhaps what is needed is for Minnesotans to get to know gay folk.

Imagine a similar video campaign: "I'm a truck driver and I'm gay," "I'm a financial advisor and I'm gay," "I'm a grocer and I'm gay," etc.

John Gustav-Wrathall said...

Steven B - OR "I'm a Mormon and I'm gay."

calibosmom said...

Good for you for getting involved! You are a voice of reason and love-more of which is needed on both sides. I hope it turns out for the best-I have a feeling it will.

Anonymous said...

Where can I donate?