Gay Marriage Amendment: Commentary

By David Hancox

In case you missed it. Minnesota HF1613, passed in the 2011 Minnesota legislative session, would ask the voters in 2012, “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

It was introduced by lead author Rep. Gottwalt and Reps. Torrey Westrom of Elbow Lake, Kurt Daudt of Crown, Mike Benson of Rochester, Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake, Matt Dean of Dellwood, Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove, Mary Franson of Alexandria, Glen Gruenhagen of Glencoe, Kathy Lohmer of Lake Elmo, Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, Debra Kiel of Crookston, Peggy Scott of Andover, Bruce Anderson of Buffalo Township, Sondra Erickson of Princeton, Chris Swedzinski of Ghent, Bruce Vogel of Willmar and Ron Shimanski of Silver Lake. (Civil Report, April 28, 2011)  A companion bill was also passed in the Minnesota Senate, SF 1308; its chief sponsor is Senator Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove.

If you ask those members of the MN Legislature who voted in favor of placing an amendment to ban same sex marriage on the 2012 ballot in Minnesota, most would say that they do not hate people who are GLBT.  Many would likely say that they actually like people who identify as GLBT.  Several members might even say, “Some of my closest friends are gay.”  Really.  Hmm.  (“With friends like that….”) These same individuals, while being either clever (in their own minds, I assure you) or simply obtuse, would also say, “This amendment is not discriminatory.  Legal marriage is just as available to people who are GLBT as it is to anyone else.  They just have to marry someone of the opposite sex.”  Again.  Really?

So, you can drink from this water fountain… can sit in the front of the bus… can be safe from workplace/housing/educational/judicial discrimination…..if you just change the color of your skin…or the change the shape of your eyes…or alter the country of your birth.  Not quite as absurd a distinction as you might think.  An individual who identifies as GLBT was born that way, just like a person of color was born that way, and neither can do a thing to change that truth.

Such marriages run counter to “the intent of Almighty God,” said the Rev. Tom Parrish, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Minneapolis (Star Tribune, April 29, 2011).  While I can respect Rev. Parrish’ right to his personal opinion, he needs to be reminded that this is not a religious law argument, but rather an argument of the application of civil law.  We live in a secular state.

It was reported by Tom Scheck, (MPR News on May 11, 2011), that Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said Republicans are “making a political calculation that the same-sex marriage amendment and other constitutional amendments will drive GOP voters to the polls in a key presidential election next year.”

So, in reality, this whole effort is not about protecting the sanctity of marriage, upholding the “intent of Almighty God”, or the promotion of one man-one woman marriage. Once again, the GLBT community is simply a political scapegoat. Can anyone spell d-i-s-i-n-g-e-n-u-o-u-s?  I mean, my goodness, with the amount of political capitol that the GLBT community seems to provide the Republican Party, you would think they would embrace us with gratitude just for existing!

(A Pew Research Center longitudinal study [2011-2011] of changing attitudes on gay marriage shows that nationally there is a pretty even splint, with 46% opposed and 45% in favor of same sex marriage.)

My interest in the marriage amendment argument is not because of the desire to be married.  I am not currently in a committed relationship.  I haven’t purchased a wedding ring, and I am not planning a trip to the registrar’s office to obtain a marriage license.  So, while I am not interested in the physical attainment of a marriage, what I am concerned about is the broader perception of the GLBT community that this proposed amendment symbolizes.  Any action that is set forth to purposefully place another individual or group in a subordinate position, a position of less value in the eyes of the broader community, or which, with intent, creates societal barriers to attain an equal prospect, or which is designed to resolutely separate that individual or group from the mainstream of opportunities available to the broader community, is by definition, an act of discrimination.  So, the proposed amendment is not about marriage, or protecting the sanctity of marriage.  It is not about individuals who identify as GLBT.  It is, quite simply, about discrimination.

One group of individuals cannot set forth to subordinate another group of individuals and seek to call their actions by any other name.  It is discrimination.

(2011-MAR-10-13: A Washington Post/ABC News poll reported that 53% of American adults supported same-sex marriage; 44% were opposed. This is a margin of 9 percentage points in favor of same sex marriage.)

The GLBT community has been around since time began. (No history lesson here, there isn’t the time or space.)  But, it is safe to say that the GLBT community has assimilated into our broader community so very successfully that in many ways we are almost invisible. Most of us move through our daily lives without an immediate distinction as GLBT.  In fact, we as a community have been so assimilated for so long that we have become complacent.  We allow so much to be done to us.  It is this kind of complacency that allows legislators to propose this kind of constitutional amendment…believing that they have the support of a majority of Minnesota citizens.

So, as an individual who is GLBT, or as someone who has a meaningful friendship/family relationship with someone who is GLBT, or who has a valued coworker/colleague who is GLBT, this affects you.  And, yes, I know that the vote is still 10 months away, but we cannot allow the discussion to be put on hold until the date draws closer.  The discussion needs to continue…it needs to be daily.  We cannot be complacent on this.  Remember, it’s about discrimination.

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