This is a time of high anticipation. So much has happened in the past two weeks, so much will happen in the next two weeks. By the time this issue is on stands, it’ll be Lobby Day at which the community will hopefully have shown a tremendous display of support for the Freedom to Marry at the Minnesota State Capitol. Perhaps we’ll be moving toward the marriage bills being heard on the floors of the House and Senate. I hope things will be full of passion and optimism. Maybe even celebration. Hope.
I’m well aware of the fact that the discussion of the topic of civil unions in the community has not been met with open arms and support by some. In this issue, we’re looking at both marriage and civil unions as they are relevant and pertinent to the bigger conversation. Marriage equality is the goal; but, stepping back a moment, what a historical event that was when four GOP lawmakers in Minnesota held a press conference to introduce civil unions for same-sex couples. When the only earlier GOP response to same-sex couples had included a parade of people arguing against the existence of homosexuality (as a concept, really), to see this happen was pretty monumental. Being that the civil unions press conference with the legislators also included each of them saying that they would not vote for marriage if the vote came up, it’s not entirely helpful to the greater goal of equality, but it did serve a purpose in shifting the discussion away from nothing.
Away from nothing.
Sit with that a moment.
That night, across social media and websites and newscasts, the future of rights associated with relationships for this community seemed less of an “if” and more of a “how.” I have to commend KARE 11 (the local NBC station) for quickly addressing the issue. Did you see the coverage? They delineated the difference between civil unions and marriage, and made it clear that civil unions were the lesser of the two–that the rights are not equal, that civil unions would likely not be acknowledged for federal rights should the federal DOMA be repealed, and other reasons. More than that, KARE 11 interviewed two couples from the community who gave faces to the fact that civil unions don’t mean what marriage means. But, what was not mentioned was anything other than civil unions or marriage–it’s as if there was no longer a third option: nothing.
The buzzkill of the day was that though plenty of DFLers came out saying that the concept of civil unions is lesser to the status of marriage for this community, there was still no promise to make marriage happen. Yes, I’ll hand it to Speaker of the House Thissen for pre-empting the civil unions press conference by a matter of minutes to say that civil unions are outdated and not acceptable to those who, like him, support marriage equality. We still get the answer that there hasn’t been a vote yet, and there may not be the numbers to pull off the freedom to marry in a DFL-controlled legislature.
This is when I wish that I had taken more political science courses. I stayed in the area of communications and women’s and gender studies, but times like these make me feel like my knowledge of politics rely on “I’m Just a Bill” from Schoolhouse Rock! which actually predates me. Though, I suppose, my gender studies might have actually taught me more about what might happen in closed-door meetings between people in power, a little more knowledge of how lobbying works would probably help me feel more optimistic that marriage equality might pass in Minnesota in 2013. As it is, though, shouldn’t we all be able to understand how our legislature works by virtue of something as simple as understanding what the parties stand for?
I realize that nothing is ever really black and white…politics, especially, have shades of grey. We see that separate Boy Scout troops, Catholic parishes, and individual voters might step outside of the larger umbrella organizations of the Boy Scouts of America, the Archdiocese, and the Democratic (or whichever) Party. People have choices and can fully or partially adhere to the platforms of their particular groups. But, as far as we Americans understand it, how closely do representatives of a political party have to align themselves to their party?
The reason I ask this is fairly obvious. You know what’s coming.
That’s right. It’s that brand-spanking-new plank in the Democratic Party Platform about marriage equality that was voted into the platform in 2012, which is under the heading “Greater Together” and the subheading “Protecting Rights and Freedoms”:
Freedom to Marry. We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.
We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.
I don’t want to sound snarky at this point. I ask in all seriousness, am I missing something here when I hear that outstate DFLers are resisting voting for marriage equality? When I asked Democrat Senator Baldwin about adhering to the party platform in my interview with her later in this issue, I understood her when she said that “party platforms and laws are very different things,” that a platform is a vision statement for the party. So here we are. We are trying to turn a vision into a law and asking the representatives of that party to do it.
Even if the national party platform does not directly bind the state legislators, the DFL platform says under the heading “Civil, Human, and Constitutional Rights”: “We Oppose: Discrimination against any person on the basis of race, creed, religion, immigration status, sex, sexual or affectional orientation, HIV status, gender identity or expression, marital or homemaker status, disability or age.”
As members of the Democratic Party, DFL legislators are to strive to achieve the vision of the party, and that vision includes marriage equality. Not civil unions. Not nothing.
The DFL has the majority in Minnesota’s House of Representatives. The DFL has the majority in Minnesota’s Senate. The DFL Governor has said that he will sign a bill to legalize same-sex marriage should it reach his desk.
DFL, it’s on you.
Your party platform requires it of you. Your vision is clear. It’s time to earn the loyalty you’ve had for years, by default, by fulfilling your duties as members of the Democratic Party, according to your party platform.
With hope and gratitude,