“Marriage is a civil right,” said Chuck Samuelson, Executive Director of ACLUMN (American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota), speaking with Lavender about the upcoming amendments in November, “not because the ACLU or the gays say so but because the government called it a right in 1967 in the Loving Vs. Virginia case (that voided the existing miscegenation laws). The argument for marriage equality today is the same as it was in 1967: if two people want to marry, there is no governmental reason to stop them.”
In other words, if two people of the same sex want to marry, at least secularly, there is no reason it shouldn’t be allowed or even encouraged. The arguments being used against same-sex marriage are in the main religious, and constitute a violation of the First Amendment. Explains Samuelson, “The Catholic, Mormon and evangelicals are driving to prevent (equal marriage) rights because their churches teach that same-sex marriage is wrong. They want to use the police power of the government to support their own churches’ teachings and to oppose the church teachings of the United Methodists, Presbyterians, UCC and other gay-affirming Christian churches. This a religious question which the government is forbidden by the Constitution from handling.”
On the amendment concerning mandatory voter IDs Samuelson says, “This movement was unheard of before two events: the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts went through. The “non-racist” argument is that there is a mass of voter fraud that nobody has been able to find. Fritz Knopf, Senator Coleman’s attorney on the recount, found no voter fraud; former Republican Governor Arnie Carlson says there was no voter fraud.
“Passing this amendment,” continues Samuelson, “would certainly accomplish two things: Frist, it would cost property tax payers in the state $40 million to implement, and would require a second voting system to handle the provisional ballots the amendment requires. Second, it would end same-day registration because the amendment would require all registrations to be handled the same way.”
“Young people, poor people and the feeble elderly would be hit the hardest by this amendment,” states Samuelson. “Young people and poor individuals would have to buy licenses every time they moved, and because they’re already poor, their burden would be proportionally greater. The elderly and incapacitated would be impacted because they don’t have driver’s licenses and many don’t have birth certificates.”
What tactics would the ACLU-MN suggest for seeing that these amendments are not passed in November? ACLU-MN totally supports Minnesotans United for All Families, a broad coalition of organizations and community and business leaders seeking to defeat the amendment to limit the freedom to marry for committed same-sex couples in Minnesota. They will also be organizing campus ACLU clubs, focusing on voter registration, getting out the votes, and intellectual exercises.
Samuelson stresses that young votes are extremely important, and that without efforts to obtain them, they may fall through the cracks, since although younger voters are opposed to both amendments they often have a low voter turnout, The voter ID amendment “will screw young people particularly–they move a lot, they’re poorer, and because they’re young, they’re not yet job creators.”
Words are key weapons, Samuelson advises. “One on one conversation is critical. The most profitable activity is to reach all of the people who think like us or who may go vote–there are lots of creative ways to get people to vote.” Talk to friends and allies, talk to your neighbors in the hall. Be low key, non-threatening, but talk, talk, talk. The least productive activity is engaging in a match to convert the other side, the extremists. “For our side to win,” he stresses, “we have to have millions of one-on-one conversations with those in the middle–those whose minds aren’t yet set in cement.
“Everybody’s got to pick up a spade and turn a few shovels full; grab an oar and pull. If the individuals who think the way we do will work as hard as the people who hate us will, we will win.”