Bring Up Same-Sex Marriage

Now that the Fleet-ing fun of another festive Pride has flown by (if you saw what my good friend, Wanda Wisdom, was handing out during the parade, you’d get the joke), the dog days of summer are well under way. You might be relaxing up north at the family cabin; heading off to some far-flung tropical island paradise; or maybe, like me, just sitting in the backyard with a tall glass of iced tea watching your tomatoes blossom.

In your warm and sunny respite, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that we in Minnesota are in the midst of fighting off a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if you brought the topic up at your next summer barbecue, you’d likely get an ample helping of eye-rolls and hrumphs in response. Still, I hope you will bring it up. Bigots don’t take a holiday, so why should we?

Same-sex marriage won a key victory in June when New York legalized it on the eve of Gay Pride. As I followed the issue online, I kept coming across reports that following New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, Minnesota now becomes the next battleground state.

As my good friend, Wanda Wisdom, put it, however, “I would just like to remind the media that Minnesota is not the next ‘same-sex marriage showdown.’ We’re not fighting for equality. We’re fighting for the status quo.” Well put.

My fear is that the media, either through a profound misunderstanding of the issue or out of sheer intellectual laziness will fail to portray accurately the question being put before Minnesota voters in 2012. Essentially, I’m afraid that the question “Do you want to write a same-sex marriage ban into the state constitution?” will instead become “Do you want to legalize same-sex marriage?”

This is not a debate about legalizing same-sex marriage. It’s an attempt to discriminate further against gays and lesbians by eliminating any future possibility of full civil equality.

Proponents of the ban know this. It’s in their interest to make this vote seem like a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage, and deflect attention away from its true intention.

Our job is to counter this. Not only do we need to make sure the public knows what this vote is really about, but also we must remain vigilant, and hold the media accountable when they misrepresent the issue.

Although this long and, frankly, ridiculous battle has just begun, we’ve already won a key victory. You may remember from the last issue’s column that the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board had agreed to look at the issue of disclosure and campaign contributions to ballot questions. Basically, does the public have the right to know who is funding campaign contributions to ballot questions?

In late June, the board adopted a resolution requiring full disclosure, thereby closing loopholes that, according to Common Cause Minnesota, “would have allowed millions of dollars of undisclosed contributions to flow to both sides of the marriage debate.”

The only groups that opposed full disclosure were supporters of the same-sex marriage ban, which, as I said previously, kind of tells you what they think about the veracity of their arguments.

It may be a small victory in a long and uncertain war, but we can take some small pleasure in the knowledge that, at the very least, our opponents won’t be able to hide behind a cloak of secrecy.

Now, get back to enjoying your summer—and keeping this issue alive, regardless of the looks you get from barbecue-goers.

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