Earlier today I gathered with a number of other marriage equality supporters at the Minnesota State Capitol. Here we sadly listened and watched as a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples took a decisive step closer to being placed on the 2012 ballot.
I think what bothered me most was that the impassioned, well-reasoned and eloquent testimonies of senators such as Scott Dibble, Patricia Torres Ray, John Marty and Linda Berglin against enshrining discrimination into the State Constitution had absolutely no impact on the Republican legislators – all of whom voted for the amendment. Where is their humanity?
As Sen. John Marty noted after the vote:
In over three hours of debate on the Senate floor, the proponents of this mean-spirited amendment did not make even one argument on how this would help anyone, or any family. The only argument they gave was that “we should let the people vote on marriage.”
Thirty years ago, when Connie and I decided to get married, we made a lifelong commitment to each other in front of our family and friends.
Nobody else voted on our marriage.
Several years ago, two friends of ours, Jen and Jane, decided to make a similar lifelong commitment to each other in front of their family and friends.
Why should anyone else be able to vote on Jane and Jen’s marriage?
How would Jane and Jen’s marriage harm anybody else?
The authors of the amendment offered no answer.
Do the proponents think it will help Jen and Jane’s daughter, if we deny her parents the right to marry? Again, the authors of the amendment offer no answer.
No, they didn't. All they could offer, mantra-like, was the refrain: "Let the people vote."
I don't believe they really mean that. I think what they really mean is Let's make sure a core element of our supporters vote for our candidates in 2012 by placing this issue on the ballot.
Hamline University Law Professor David Schultz sums it up best:
There is no good public policy reason to bar same-sex couples from marrying. But the constitutional amendment is not about policy, it is about symbolic politics and voter mobilization. As was demonstrated in 2004 when Karl Rove and the GOP placed bans on same-sex marriage on the ballots across many states, it was a terrific hot button issue to mobilize voters. It worked. The religious conservatives turned out in droves.
Placing a ban on gay marriage on the ballot for 2012 might work for similar purposes . . . .
The operative word, of course, is might. For as Schultz acknowledges: "2012 is not 2004 and such a strategy may backfire as public opinion has changed and it may engage progressives this time. This is a gamble the GOP senators are taking." Let's hope it's one they also lose!
Another thing that disturbed me about today's vote was the great unspoken cause of division between those accepting and supportive of gay people and their rights and those against such acceptance and support. We know that what drives the backers of this amendment is, first and foremost, a very narrow and rigid religious-based view on sexuality – one that considers homosexual relations as "sinful." I believe that those who are for this amendment are determined to not legitimize what they believe is "sinful" and "depraved" behavior. To legitimize such behavior would be nothing short of mocking God, and thus bringing divinely-orchestrated ruin to our nation.
No, seriously. I think many of them actually believe this. Not that you'd ever hear them say it publicly, mind you. They know that that would alienate mainstream America. No, they're definitely cowards, by and large. Mean-spirited cowards entrenched in a theology that fails to acknowledge, let alone reflect, the loving and transforming presence of the sacred discerned, mediated, and embodied in and through the diverse range of human experience. Accordingly, there's no sense of evolution in their understanding of God's presence and action in our lives – all of our lives, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It's such a narrow, impoverished, and brittle way of talking about what so many of us experience and celebrate as inclusive, abundant, and enriching.
Interestingly, back in 2006, many of these same anti-marriage equality people were pushing a marriage amendment that would ban gay marriage and "all legal equivalents." That language is totally lacking in this new bill. This means that a future legislature could allow civil unions for same-sex couples with all the benefits of civil marriage. Think about it: we'd have marriage by two different names! Oh, sure, legally these same-sex civil unions couldn't be called marriages, but you can be sure that in time and in the daily lives of people they will be referred to and thought of as marriages. It's going to happen, with or without the official sanctioning of the use of the word "marriage." So what really is the purpose of this ugly and expensive push on the part of those who introduced and voted for this amendment?
I guess it's to make a point reflective of their narrow and bigoted religious worldview, though without actually being able to say that because they know full well that the majority of Minnesotans don't share this worldview. And so all they can parrot is "Let the people vote! Let the people vote!" in the hope that the presence on the ballot of this particular issue will bring out a certain type of constituent.
Never mind that they're hurting thousands of Minnesotan families.
Never mind that they're misusing the Constitution.
What terrible things they are doing. And what pathetic, mean-spirited losers they ultimately are.
Anyway, these are my initial thoughts on today's proceedings. Please feel free to share yours in the comments section.
Following is an excerpt from Bob von Sternberg's Star Tribune article "Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment to Ban Same-Sex Marriage." It's accompanied by more photos I took today at the Capitol.
After more than three hours of often-emotional debate, the Senate approved the proposed amendment by a vote of 38 to 27. The House, which has not yet taken up the bill, is expected to pass it, as well.
Although Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the measure, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, he has no voice in the decision because constitutional amendments do not require a governor's signature to be placed on the ballot and he can't veto it.
State law already defines marriage as the amendment does, but supporters say the amendment is needed to prevent judges, or a future legislature, from overturning the law.
Although DFL majorities have blocked the amendment for years, now that Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, passage of it seems nearly assured. Opponents dominated the debate, raising objections that ranged across topics that included religion, discrimination and the economic fallout from adopting the amendment.
Dozens of activists on both sides of the debate filled the Senate gallery and opponents of the amendment conceded that they had little hope of preventing its passage.
"I'm not hopeful at this point," said St. Paul resident Paul Fleege, who hung a banner outside the Senate chamber that declared, "To Be Lesbian or Gay is a Gift from God." "After last November, I knew right away it was going to pass."
"Yes, it's going to pass, but we had to show up and show our opposition," said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state's largest advocacy group for gays and lesbians."This isn't going to help a single family in Minnesota, but will discriminate against a lot of them."
Above: Monica Meyer (right) with staffers from OutFront Minnesota
and Sen. John Marty (second from left).
and Sen. John Marty (second from left).
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the amendment is needed to prevent "a small group of politicians or judges to define marriage" and cited a recent poll sponsored by the Minnesota Family Council that showed that three fourths of the state's residents want the opportunity to vote on the issue. "When I think about it, why shouldn't they?"
Several recent national polls have found that opposition to same-sex marriage has been shrinking to a point where Americans are split on the issue.
"This new majority is very, very wrong," said Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka. "This new majority is out of step with the people of Minnesota and the people of this country. People have moved on."
DFLers argued that there's no indication the state's courts are poised to overturn the current state law.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who is openly gay, showed a picture of himself and his partner, Richard and emotionally asked, "What is so different about us? What is so dangerous? We work really, really hard to support each other every day."
If the amendment is on the ballot, Dibble predicted "an ugly, angry divisive campaign" will unfold in Minnesota, with millions of dollars being spent by both sides. "This amendment is going to create a climate of hostility and fear."
– Bob von Sternberg
May 11, 2011
May 11, 2011
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Opposition to the Marriage Amendment Grows
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
Winona Daily News Calls Proposed Marriage Amendment "Bigoted" and "Malicious"
Law Professor: Marriage Amendment is Divisive and Mean-Spirited
Rep. Steve Simon on Gay Marriage and the Arc of History
Disappointing, But Not Unexpected: "Marriage Amendment" Bill Passes MN Senate Judiciary Committee
Governor Mark Dayton to LGBT Advocates: "I Stand with You"
A Celebration of Faith and Family; A Call for Compassion and Fairness
Quote of the Day – November 4, 2010
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy
Minnesotans Rally for Equality and Love
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to Minnesota's Constitution
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Recommended Off-site Links:
Most U.S. Catholics Back Civil Marriage for Gays – Lou Chibbaro Jr. (The Washington Blade, March 31, 2011).
Catholics More Supportive of Gay Rights Than General Public, Other Christians – Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter, March 22, 2011 – via The Progressive Catholic Voice).
U.S. Catholics Break with Church Hierarchy on Gay Relationships – Cathy Lynn Grossman (USA Today, March 23, 2011).
Banning Gay Marriage Would Institutionalize Injustice – Gary Boelhower (Duluth News Tribune, May 1, 2011).
Images: Michael J. Bayly.