Tuesday, March 12, 2013

At the Minnesota State Capitol, Two Big Steps Forward for Marriage Equality

Earlier today, marriage equality legislation was passed by both the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee (by 5-3) and the Minnesota House Civil Law Committee (by 10-7). It will now go up for a full House and Senate vote some time later this legislative session. As executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, I was honored to offer testimony in support of the bill during today's House Civil Law Committee hearing.

Above right: With Democratic State Representative Karen Clark, one of the main authors of Minnesota's marriage equality legislation (House File 1054 and Senate File 925).

Above and below: Giving testimony in support of House File 1054.

Here's the official overview of HF 1054: "This bill authorizes the marriage and divorce of two people, regardless of gender, and recognizes for purposes of Minnesota law marriages performed in other jurisdictions, regardless of the gender of the persons in the marriage. The bill also contains provisions which permit churches and religious associations to choose who can be married in their faith and to whom they will provide services, without the risk of liability."

Those testifying were given just two minutes to speak, which for me, and no doubt others, meant some serious last minute editing! Here's what I said:

Thank you for this opportunity to testify in support of HF1054. As executive coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify the oft-quoted statement that the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage. This is only true if we limit the church to its clerical leadership. In reality, this leadership does not encompass the totality of the church nor does it speak for all Catholics on this issue.

Credible polls show that over two-thirds of Catholics support marriage equality. In fact, US Catholics support gay marriage by a larger margin than the general public. As a Catholic, I welcome this reality and its grounding in the best aspects of the Catholic faith, including the Catholic people’s experience of knowing and accepting their gay children, siblings, parents, neighbors and co-workers. I take heart in the role that Catholics are playing so as to advance compassion and justice in our society.

I want to assure you as lawmakers that the majority of Catholics recognize and respect that in a pluralistic society such as ours, the Catholic hierarchy should not be imposing its understanding of sexuality and marriage onto wider society. This is especially true when one acknowledges that the bishops’ understanding of these realities is out-of-step with two important sources of truth within the Catholic tradition: the collective wisdom of the Catholic people and the insights of Catholic theologians.

Catholics are not, in theory, opposed to the bishops making statements on important social issues. But we know that their speaking out should always seek to expand the circle of welcome and inclusion. This is not the case with their activism around marriage equality. And for many Catholics this is both painful and scandalous.

Many are also embarrassed by official church pronouncements on sexuality that reflect a disturbing fixation on specific sex acts rather than on the relational quality of consensual adult partnering. It would seem that the bishops have forgotten that truth (including the truth of human sexuality) is discovered through time, and that tradition (including the tradition of marriage) evolves. Thankfully, the Catholic people have not forgotten these liberating hallmarks of their Catholic faith.

In conclusion, I want to assure you that the majority of Catholics would see the passing of marriage equality legislation as being in keeping with their church’s call for individuals and institutions to embody justice and compassion. The majority would support the passing of House File 1054. I hope you won’t disappoint them.

Thank you for your time.

Above: Minnesotans United for All Families' executive director Richard Carlbom celebrates with Rep. Karen Clark the passing of HF 1054 by the MN House Civil Law Committee – March 12, 2013.

I have to say that both of today's Senate and House committee hearings where a veritable who's who of the marriage equality debate of the last two years. Those present to support the legislation included Dale Carpenter, Jacob Reitan and his parents Phil and Randi, Minnesota business woman Marilyn Carlson Nelson, 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner, and former Republican State Representative Lynne Osterman (who at one point broke down as she shared her regret for "casting a politically expedient vote" in the 1990s in favor of DOMA). Some of those who testified against the legislation included Katherine Kersten, MN Catholic Conference spokesperson Jason Adkins, Mike Frey, and Teresa Collett.

Right: With former Roman Catholic priest Bob Minton, who provided testimony in support of HF 1054.

In May of 2012, Bob was one of 80 former Minnesota Catholic priests who publicly spoke out against the proposed 'marriage amendment,' which would have placed a ban in the Minnesota constitution on the granting of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. Thankfully, this amendment was defeated in November 2012.

For more about the 80 former priests' statement opposing the 'marriage amendment,' click here.

Above and below: Rep. Karen Clark, speaking to the media after the passing of HF 1054 by the MN House Civil Law Committee.

Related Off-site Links:
Same-Sex Marriage Bill Advances in Legislature – Jennifer Brooks (Star Tribune, March 12, 2013).
Marriage Bill Advances After Emotional Day of Hearings – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, March 13, 2013).
Video Replay: Legislative Committees Approve Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage – Michael McIntee (The Uptake, March 12, 2013).
Same-Sex Marriage Push Begins in Minnesota – Jessica Lee (Minnesota Daily, February 28, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"It'll Be Legal August 1st
Acknowledging, Celebrating, and Learning from Marriage Equality's 'Triumphs of Faith'
Something to Celebrate
Both 'Marriage Amendment' AND 'Voter Photo ID Amendment' Rejected by Minnesota Voters
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
A Head and Heart Response to the Catholic Hierarchy's Opposition to Marriage Equality
In Minnesota, Catholics Sing Their Support for Marriage Equality
Lisa Cressman's Concise, Reasonable Answers to Marriage Equality Questions
MN Legislators Hear from Supporters and Opponents of Marriage Equality (2010)


Kristine said...

Congratulations, Michael -- I'm so proud of you!!!

John said...

Thank you, Michael, for all your work on behalf of us all.

Kathleen said...

Fabulous statement, Michael. We are so lucky that you have been our spokesman for Catholics for Marriage Equality. The big smiles in these photos convey a lot of JOY.

Angela said...

You are amazing, Michael. Congratulations on all of your hard work and this important milestone! Love you.

Cheryl said...

Michael, I trust that all of us on the C4ME-MN board are grateful you could be there sharing your words of wisdom throughout this process. Congratulations on a job well done!