My goddaughter, MK, attends the third grade in a parochial school in the East Metro. A few weeks ago, her teacher was leading a discussion with her students about the good works that the Catholic Church provides in minority communities. The teacher mentioned older adults, people who live in poverty, people who are ill and served by church managed health services, immigrant populations transitioning to life in the US, indigenous populations in other countries around the world, and so on. After the discussion was over, the students moved to their next activity, independent study time. At this time, MK quietly approached her teacher at her desk and asked,
“May I ask a question?”
“Of course, MK, what is it?
“What about gay people?
“Excuse me? What do you mean?”
“Well, you mentioned all these other people that the church helps. But, what about gay people? You didn’t mention gay people.”
“Oh. Well, dear, there just aren’t enough of them to matter.”
MK returned to her seat and resumed her study.
First, you have to know how incredibly proud MK’s gay godfather (that has a nice ring to it) is of her. The poise, intelligence, and grace she employed to approach her teacher, an authority figure, and ask such a provocative question made me swell. Clearly she knows that gay people, including her godfather, matter.
With the kind of pervasive attitude expressed by MK’s teacher, is it any wonder that on May 8, 2012, North Carolina became the latest state (the 30th state) to adopt a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, effectively enshrining discrimination in its state’s constitution? Clearly it is not just a perception that there aren’t “enough to matter,” but that even in 2012, a simple majority of our fellow citizens see us as dismissible, second-class citizens.
And, how should we react if our fellow Minnesota citizens send us the same message in November 2012? I am not a defeatist, but let’s be reasonable. At best, the upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment to establish marriage in Minnesota as being between one man and one woman will be a close, neck-in-neck, outcome. At worse, it will pass and we will, again, be told by a majority of our fellow citizens that we don’t matter. That we are not worthy of the same rights and opportunities provided to our neighbors. And, again, our community reaction to the decision will be waved away with the same old tired reasons and rationalizations:
“Marriage should be between one man and one woman,”
“We shouldn’t mess with God’s design.”
And a personal favorite of mine used regularly by our supposed supportive politicians, “I support the gay community…gay people. I just think that marriage should be between one man and one woman.”
Well, you know what they say about lipstick and a pig.
(A Pew Research Center longitudinal study [2011-2011] of changing attitudes on gay marriage shows that nationally there is a pretty even split, with 46% opposed and 45% in favor of same sex marriage.)
The one thing that will not change for us is this—there are already more than 500 Minnesota statutes, rules, and regulations that provide opportunity and rights to the non-gay community that are not available to us. A victory for the pro-amendment crowd in November in Minnesota will just continue this status quo. But, a victory by the anti-amendment community, those who support our right to a legally recognized marriage, will send a clear message too. A message that not only do we expect our committed relationships to be honored, but that we also expect that the additional benefits that come with marriage will be available as well.
One final note. Please be reminded that this fall, every seat in the Minnesota House and Senate is up for re-election. These are the elected officials who voted in favor of the legislation for a constitutional amendment. 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.