Thursday, May 09, 2013

Two of the Most Inspiring Speeches from Today's Historic MN House Hearing and Vote on Marriage Equality

Earlier today the Democratic-led Minnesota House of Representatives voted 75-59 in support of Housefile 1054, a bill legalizing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Four Republicans crossed party lines to vote Yes, two Democrats voted No. This is the same bill that I, as Executive Coordinator of Catholics for Marriage Equality MN (C4ME-MN), testified in support of when it was debated by the Minnesota House Civil Law Committee on March 12, 2013.

The Senate version of the bill is expected to easily pass when it is debated and voted on this coming Monday, May 13. Governor Mark Dayton, a strong supporter of marriage equality, has said he will sign the bill into law, thus making Minnesota the 12th state in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples will be able to legally marry beginning August 1. Today's historic vote took place less than six months after a Republican-backed Minnesota constitutional amendment aimed at banning same-sex marriage failed at the polls.

Before today's vote a debate was held on the Minnesota House floor. Following are transcripts of the speeches by two members of the House. I find both of them to be quite eloquent and inspiring. Perhaps you will too!

The first, by Representative Susan Allen, an Ojibwa woman, reminds me of the insights shared in the previous Wild Reed post, 'North America: Perhaps Once the Queerest Continent on the Planet." The second, by Representative Rena Moran, an African-American woman, bring to mind the observations of Diana Hayes on the connection between the black and LGBT struggles for civil rights.

Representative Susan Allen (DFL), District 62B:

Mr. Speaker. Members. I want to start by saying thank you to all those who have committed themselves to bringing about marriage equality, especially Rep. Clark and Sen. Dibble who have spoken out from their hearts, I believe out of a strong desire to live in accordance with their values. I begin by saying that I respect the sanctity of marriage and what it means to various individuals and groups. In Ojibwa culture, we believe that sharing a life with another is a sacred responsibility. Individual couples may get married in the Wedigaywin lodge by a pipe ceremony that involves lighting a small fire, feeding each other, sharing water and sharing the pipe. This Ojibwa ceremony has existed since time immemorial and it will continue regardless of what we decide here today. This bill is about marriage equality under the law.

I have always resisted the idea that minority groups including the LGBT community need to be included within the existing legal, political and social frameworks rather than changing such frameworks for themselves. In other words I object to the notion of equality with a dominant group. Therefore my hope is that marriage equality will no longer be defined solely on the terms of heterosexuals because it promotes assimilation as the way to gain legal rights rather than representing a challenge to the values that predominate in the dominant culture.

Of course equality with those who enjoy the privilege to marry is entirely appropriate when it eliminates the extreme hardships of unequal treatment or to achieve particular goals as this bill does. But it’s important to me how we frame marriage equality. I realize my discussion of equality and privilege is far beyond the scope of this bill so I will tell you why I support this bill.

I support this bill because it recognizes that marriage is dynamic and that marriage is a human good with certain inherent requirements that the state does not create but should recognize and support in all forms. I believe this is the first step in improving the ways in which members of the LGBT community are represented and treated.

Representative Rena Moran (DFL), District 65A:

Thank you Mr. Speaker and Members. Last night I left session pondering whether I would speak on behalf of House File 1054. Not because I don’t believe it’s the right thing to do. I believe it is. But more because as a person of faith, I didn’t want to upset those in the black community of faith who believe that marriage is between a woman and a man. But this morning I woke and I knew what I had to do. As a descendant of slavery, and one whose ancestors were seen as ‘less than,’ I cannot take that message forward into the 21st century, and deny an individual, a human being, the dignity of loving who they are and, in turn, loving who they choose. For me, this decision is not so much about a religious belief, but instead is about a basic human right. A right given to all by a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence, a phrase that is meant to exemplify the inalienable rights with which all human beings are endowed by their creator, for their protection, of which they institute government.

Today I stand here confident, capable of celebrating this historic moment, a moment much like the one that my ancestors celebrated and believed-in during the civil rights era, an era of being equal. There’s no compromise to that. Either we are equal or we are not equal. Equal is really equal. So today, I stand believing that we are on the right side of history, a time where all regardless of sexual preference, will be able to make a commitment through marriage, to love whoever you choose to love, for nothing is stronger than love. So today I stand in support of love: Housefile 1054.

Related Off-site Links:
Minnesota House Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill – Paul Tosto (Minnesota Public Radio, May 9, 2013).
In Historic Vote, Minnesota House Approves Marriage Equality Bill After Two-Hour Debate – Associated Press via the Star Tribune (May 9, 2013).
Minnesota House Approves Gay Marriage, 75-59 – Pat Kessler (CBS Minnesota, May 9, 2013).
The Catholics, Other Faith Groups Behind Minnesota Marriage Victory – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, May 9, 2013).
Photos: Marriage Equality Bill House Debate at State CapitolMinnesota Public Radio (May 9, 2013).
Latest ABC News/Washington Post Survey Finds Support for Same-Sex Marriage, Ending Boy Scout BanHuffPost Gay Voices (May 9, 2013).
Gay Marriage: Why Attitudes Have Changed – Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, May 7, 2013).
Marriage Equality Victories Show How Change Happens, One Step At a Time – Gar Alperovitz (Yes!, May 9, 2013).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Drawing the Circle Wide
At the Minnesota State Capitol, Two Big Steps Forward for Marriage Equality
"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
"A Thoughtful, Entertaining, and Inspiring Event"
Lisa Cressman's Concise, Reasonable Answers to Marriage Equality Questions

Image 1: Minnesota Public Radio.
Image 2: Kim W. Havey.
Images 3-5: Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services.

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