I remember the music that was playing as we waited for the results on Election Night in 2012. All of us stood for hours at the Election Night Party with Minnesotans United for All Families, watching the big screens with various news stations reporting the results. Collectively, the group would exclaim in excitement or groan in worry. I noted the music selections three times that night. First, I can recall that I was watching both the photographers from the media outlets as well as the crowd when Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” came on over the loudspeaker. In one sweeping motion, all of the photographers turned themselves to the crowd, but the crowd wasn’t paying attention. Some folks were singing along quietly, but the photographers may have been disappointed that nobody started disco dancing. Then, when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love” came on, there was a bit more excitement from the crowd, but not on a large scale. Finally, when we found out that the amendment had failed and discrimination would not be written into Minnesota’s Constitution, the song that immediately started the room singing was “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.
Today, six months after that night, same-sex marriage was signed into law by Governor Dayton and will be legal as of August 1, 2013.
We didn’t stop believing.
Looking back on months and months of writing about rights, love, equality, amendments, cognitive dissonance, politics, swag, and all-things-wedding, it’s been a roller coaster of thoughts, faith, events, rallies, phone calls, fatigue, emails, arguments, and empathy. A large-scale campaign turned into a small-scale lobbying effort. A victory turned into a victory. A conversation continued and included a great number of topics for both the community as well as the whole state of Minnesota.
Kudos and congratulations to all. Everyone played a role.
Some roles were obvious and prescribed. Minnesotans United for All Families and the other activists involved with other groups–Project 515, OutFront MN, HRC, etc.–had the mission to get the freedom to marry in Minnesota in 2013, not anything less than that. Go big or go home. It was the role, the raison d’etre, of the organization to stay focused on marriage, period. Messages were all about marriage. Funds were for marriage. Press was for marriage. Nothing but marriage. If they’d said, “Sure, you know, if you don’t stretch for marriage this year, civil unions would be okay,” there wouldn’t have been a campaign. The message was love, with rights.
As the independent and nonpartisan GLBT media, Lavender could–and did–say that this community required something of our legislators this year, ultimately marriage. Our role was to push the issue and hold both organizations as well as elected, public legislators accountable. We wanted marriage equality for this community and it was the sole power of the legislators to give it. In representing a large and diverse GLBT audience, it was crucial to maintain empathy with people who already had love, but need rights this year. People who need these rights will die before the end of the next legislative session in 2014–so if rights didn’t happen in 2013 by way of marriage, they needed to happen by way of civil unions as a stopgap. The message was rights, with love.
Our roles were different. Each organization and person came from a different perspective and played their roles differently. Tactics were based in theory, but none of us have done this before, so we didn’t have a script. If we could’ve purchased a formula or game plan for winning marriage equality in Minnesota, it would’ve made fundraising a whole lot easier. We’ve learned that this lobbying effort took $2 million dollars–cheap! Had we known that would be the price tag for marriage equality in Minnesota, we’d have emptied our pockets. But it wasn’t quite that simple. Even now, after the victory, it’d be difficult to prescribe how another state could do what Minnesota did, with a positive, pro-marriage lobbying effort that followed a negative, anti-amendment campaign. The efforts started well before 2012 and has cost people in this community so much more than money. And, we don’t know what the turning point was for each legislator in how they decided to vote–they, and their reasons, are as diverse as our community.
Thinking the people who were at the Capitol when the Governor Dayton signed the freedom to marry into law, we all had different roles and perspectives. To speak rather broadly about the demographic groups, some of the people were of the prevalent, powerful class who are accustomed to closed-door meetings and lobbying…while other people were less powerful and completely unfamiliar with having anyone work behind the scenes on their behalf, let alone come out of a closed-door meeting with their best interests in mind. Some had faith that quiet progress was being made, some wondered where the demonstrations and loud clanging cymbals were. Some folks were those who volunteered to raise money and make phone calls, given a script that was proven to be successful in its tactics. Others in the crowd were the recipients of such phone calls who either agreed to give money or had a difficult time getting off the phone with the fundraisers because those successful scripts were relentless. Some of the community never want to get married, others have been waiting for decades to do so. Some didn’t think it’d ever happen, some knew it was only a matter of getting to the vote and it’d be a done deal. Some wore their hearts on their sleeves for the past two years, others are still in the closet.
No matter what our roles or perspectives or organizations, each person contributed to this victory. It is with empathy and the ability to put ourselves in the each other’s shoes that we can find unity even in disparity. Victory can be enjoyed by all, because equality was won for all. And, to think back on Chris Kluwe’s statements on empathy in the last issue, we can stay strong as a community by being able to empathize with each other, just as we ask the larger society to empathize with us. Doing so is crucial to our survival and future as a community within a larger society. Just as we stood together on the lawn at the Capitol knowing we all had different perspectives and roles in this campaign, we were all there together. Unified.
I went to the Capitol that day with my friend, Amanda, and her son, Will. Will is two-and-a-half years old and narrated our walk from Cathedral Hill saying things like, “A-A-Andy…we’re going to cross Oxford, next.” He knew the streets of St. Paul already. I was impressed. He kept wondering if he’d get to “talk to Mark Dayton.” He held the sign his mother made saying, “MARRIAGE EQUALITY IS GOOD FOR OUR CHILDREN.”
He will not know these years before all loving couples in Minnesota were allowed the freedom to marry. I cry with relief for Will and all the children who won’t know a time when this community was fighting for the right to marry just as my generation doesn’t know a time when this community was defined as having a mental disorder or illness. But, knowing that these times existed will help our group empathy as we proceed into the next eras and fight for more rights.
There was no soundtrack to that hour at the Capitol when history was made, no singing along to “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. But, we marched to downtown St. Paul from the Capitol to the beats of a drumline with police officers stopping traffic and embraced a new anthem, “Love is the Law.”
With love and thanks,