Live and let live. Are these just words? A tired cliché that ought to be removed from our lexicon? Or does this sentiment express a deeply held value among Minnesotans? I believe it is the latter, and I am staking my holiday season plea on that belief.
Next year, in 2012, I am asking you to vote "no" on Minnesota's proposed amendment to ban gay marriage. Marriage should accessible to everyone; the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of marriage should not be exclusive to opposite sex partners.
One might ask me: Why? Why do you care? I am a married heterosexual man. I got mine. What difference does it make to me? Why do I feel so passionately about it? Why do I need marriage equality?
I could say, I have family members who would be hurt by this ban. I could say, I have friends who would be hurt by this ban. These are both powerful and true reasons, and it is likely that if you explored your family tree and your list of friends and acquaintances, those reasons would almost certainly apply to you as well. But for me, the answer is deeper and more primal than that.
Does my happiness and well-being hinge upon my exclusive access to it? Is my joy enriched by another's hardship and misery? Of course not. In fact, quite the opposite: it is tarnished by the suffering of others. Let us be honest: the world can be a hard and lonely place. Our happiness and well-being are intimately connected to the people around us. My redemption as a person cries out for everyone to share equally in the mere possibility of human fulfillment. And marriage is an important avenue to achieving true happiness on this earth, because a deep and abiding human connection can bring such fulfillment. How could I deny someone this precious thing? How can anyone?
You can dislike gays and vote against this amendment. Disliking someone has never been a reason to promote iniquity. You can adhere to your faith's notions about human coupling and sexuality and vote against this amendment. Though the state recognizes your faith-based marriage, no marriage performed by the state is necessarily sanctioned by your church. That would not change, whether this amendment passes or not. In short, you can oppose gay marriage and still vote to legalize it.
You can do these things because to legalize gay marriage is an act of civic faith and of basic humanity that would not impugn your personal views or religious practices. Rather, to vote against this amendment is to say, "I may not agree with gay marriage, but I trust that a civil marriage between same-sex partners will not affect me negatively, and it may well improve the well-being of society."
But what you absolutely cannot do is say, "I believe in personal freedom" and vote to ban gay marriage. You cannot say, "the government should not tell people who they may love or what that love must be" and support this amendment. You simply cannot say, "I am a tolerant person with a 'live and let live' attitude" and oppose gay marriage.
Please, vote against this amendment. Find the humanity in your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Believe in their right to seek lasting companionship and fulfillment. Legalize gay marriage. Live. And let live.
Update: I probably should not have titled this post the way I did, because after all, defeating the marriage amendment will not legalize gay marriage - it will still be illegal. But I'm not simply advocating the defeat of the amendment, I'm advocating full marriage equality for gays and lesbians. And defeating the amendment is a step in the right direction, and one that Minnesota should take.