Thursday, December 1, 2011

Legalize Gay Marriage In Minnesota

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.


J G-W said...

Thanks for this, Sam.

I wish the upcoming ballot initiative WERE about legalizing same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota. This vote is redundant, in way... It's to AMEND THE CONSTITUTION to make same-sex marriage doubly illegal.

However, I am cautiously optimistic that this vote can be a stepping stone to full legalization of same-sex marriage. If Minnesota rejects this ballot initiative, it might be a sign that they are ready to consider actual law establishing full marriage equality.

I actually believe the patchwork of state bans are illegal... I think they violate the "full faith and credit" clause of the constitution. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in a growing number of states, I think it violates the constitution to ban it in other jurisdictions.

A lot of legal experts agree... And it is possible that a Supreme Court ruling (perhaps even the ruling that will eventually be made on the Prop 8 case working its way to the Supreme Court) will overturn all the various DOMA acts and state amendments.

Still, it would be nice to see our state vote by a majority in support of same-sex marriage.

Knight of Nothing said...

I probably should have gone through another round of editing: I realize that the vote is to amend the state constitution, and that voting down the amendment won't in itself legalize gay marriage. I guess I was feeling moved by the issue and I wanted to get my essay out there. And yes, I totally agree with you: I think it would be a huge and real victory to vote this down. As you say: a stepping stone to full legalization.

I would like to convince someone, anyone to change their mind about this issue. That's going to take a lot of work, humor, creative thinking, and bridge building.

J G-W said...

Hey, still a great title for a blog post! :-) I agree, this is our ultimate goal!

Did you see Hilary Clinton's speech to the U.N. on protecting the human rights of gay people internationally? It was amazing to me to hear a U.S. Secretary of State publicly stating that the U.S. is committing to protecting the rights of GLBT people...

She specifically condemned the actions of states (like Uganda) that threaten gay citizens with death or imprisonment just for being gay...

Knight of Nothing said...

I didn't hear that - that's great! She and the Obama administration have been on the wrong side of a lot of issues. Glad to know that she's on the right side of this one.

J G-W said...

Ech. Yeah.

You know, it kinda pisses me off that the issue of gay rights is actually a sideshow that both parties use to focus attention off what they're doing economically and politically.

Republicans: Don't pay attention to the fact that we're plundering the country and grinding the poor and the middle class! Gays are evil and they must be stopped!

Democrats: Don't pay attention to the fact that we too are busy selling you out to corporate America and feeding the war machine to be that much different from Republicans! We think gays should have rights! (Maybe marriage, but we'll fudge on that until we're sure it will get us the votes.) So let's all hold hands and sing kumbaya. See me! I'm marching in a gay pride parade!!


Still, doing the right thing is doing the right thing, even if not always for the right reasons.