I took my own advice and talked to some people about the freedom to marry. Let me qualify that statement: I’m always talking about it, but I really talked…you know what I mean. As much as I dislike the phrase “continue the conversation,” that’s what I did. I continued the damn conversation to move from voting against that amendment to extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. You know what?
It was really hard.
I spoke with multiple people so that nobody is singled out in this piece. What I noticed in having the conversations is that there is a disconnect with people. A disconnect that I didn’t expect. It has to do with the gravity of the situation. This is pure speculation, but I have two theories about this disconnect.
First, for the Democrats, it’s difficult to articulate that our chosen political party, particularly for the social liberals of the DFL, could prioritize civil rights to be addressed at an unknown date in the future. That shows a lack of priority. Talking to people, it’s too soon to do it this session, next session would be during an election year…and then the same two-year cycle starts again. There would be no convenient time, according to those parameters. Perfectly reasonable people (from legislators to laypeople) who believe in equal rights don’t see the immediacy and priority that should be given this situation–a group of people are being denied civil rights. Yes, there are other important issues to address in the state, but how much more important are they than civil rights? The budget? Jobs? Those are perpetual problems. Is asking legislators to multi-task too much of an overreach? Stop making excuses for the legislators. It doesn’t do anyone any favors. They’re big boys and girls and are paid to have the difficult job of representing their entire state of tax-paying citizens. Expect it of them, don’t ask it of them.
Second, I speculate that the Allies need a little nudge. I could get a fair bit of flak for this, but it’s critical to reiterate that civil rights affect this community every day. Allies were crucial to the VOTE NO campaign. Where we need to focus is moving Allies from voting no to supporting the freedom to marry…to supporting the freedom to marry now. Those who identify as Ally have all the best intentions for this community, but don’t walk in the shoes of this community.
I had a voicemail message that reduced me to tears a few weeks ago. A gentleman was expressing his frustration after contacting politicians about this issue and was met with some ambivalence, some resistance. Per Michael’s voicemail message (pg. 50) and our follow-up phone conversation, I heard and felt his frustration and fear. Recently, he and his partner had experienced a health-related issue for one of them that brought up medical issues and all sorts of “what ifs” in terms of what could happen to them today, now, next month. Because rights are tied up with marriage, this community is affected every day. It’s not necessarily only about having the right to get married as it is the right to be married and die married. People who aren’t living it can look in on it and feel empathy, but don’t really know what it’s like to feel helpless in doing something so basic as being allowed access to one’s beloved. Next year is not as crucial as this year, though both are necessary. And, I think that it’s something to gently mention to the Allies. Everyone could use the reminder, really.
Apparently, the legislation is going to be introduced this session to push for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. In a two-prong approach to this issue, the legislators need to do their jobs and keep it on the table; but the public also needs to step up and show obvious and unquestionable support for legislation to allow same-sex couples to join marriage.
This brings me to a question: Where’d everybody go?
Remember when we could see a sea of orange and blue? I still see the bumper stickers as I’m driving around both here in the Twin Cities as well as in Duluth and up the North Shore. I’m sure they’re still in St. Cloud and Rochester and all sorts of cities and towns. Heck, when I’m visiting my parents, there’s at least one VOTE NO bumper sticker in Cokato. People still wear their t-shirts. Lawn signs are still up (even though it’s against the rules to have them up this long after an election…just so you know). We are still showing our disdain for that damned amendment, but where’s our support of the freedom to marry?
Maybe the Freedom to Marry Day at the Capitol on Valentine’s Day will bring with it some demonstrative swag. I’d like some bumper stickers that look like the “VOTE NO” on top of “DON’T LIMIT THE FREEDOM TO MARRY” ones, but say “I DO” on top of “SUPPORT THE FREEDOM TO MARRY.” I’d slap one of those on my Jeep faster than you can take the money that I’d pay for it. The same goes for t-shirts, as long as you make my size. Give me a Twibbon for Twitter and Facebook that says “I DO” right beneath my smiling face. By claiming “I DO” as a slogan, it’d subvert the traditional notion of marriage, but in a gentle and innocuous way–a way that’ll make sense to the future generations. Need help designing the swag? Let me know; one of my previous lifetimes was that of a graphic designer. I could design and get those to press in an afternoon. Well, almost any professional could. All you need to do is say, “Go.”
Why am I stuck on swag and promotional items? For one thing, they’re obvious signs of support for the legislators. But, perhaps more importantly, I’m stuck on swag because people need something to speak for them. And I don’t blame them. The signs and t-shirts and politicized profile pictures do a lot of our heavy lifting for us. They’re like amulets. They give us strength. Message-wise, a change in logo also helps to fortify a change in mission: It’s no longer VOTE NO, it’s now all about supporting the freedom to marry. Become a card-carrying member of the movement. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Be a safe zone for those looking for strength in numbers. As voraciously as we bought up and gave out the VOTE NO items, the freedom to marry pieces could go just as quickly. And, with them, we can have more of those conversations.
I’m not going to tell you that these conversations are easy (not that the VOTE NO ones were). We still need to talk to people who don’t believe same-sex couples should join marriage. What’s different, though, is that the talks have to also happen with people we see as friendly, our allies in either political affiliation or Allies in self-identification. Talking to people about the importance of the freedom to marry and the priority of civil rights usually involves telling people they’re wrong. If it’s not explicitly said, it’s implied. It’s saying that by thinking the freedom to marry should be put off until after the important stuff is handled, you are incorrect in not seeing civil rights for what they are: priorities.
With you and with thanks,