My name is Andrea Lien and I am the Managing Editor of Lavender Magazine, the magazine for the community of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT), and straight allies of the region which has been publishing since 1995. I directly manage the content of Lavender Magazine, lavendermagazi.wpengine.com, www.biggaynews.com, and the social media accounts involved with the different facets of Lavender Media. I am not the official spokesperson for Lavender and my opinions are not official endorsements, but I write an article in each of our biweekly issues called “From the Editor” in which I usually examine what’s been happening in the two weeks since our last issue. As of press time, bills to legalize Same-Sex Marriage in Minnesota had been introduced in the House and Senate the day before writing this letter.
I am writing this letter to you because you will have very important decisions to make with regard to the GLBT community in our state in the upcoming days and weeks, from committee sessions to the floors of your chambers. You will be facing exciting opportunities and challenges as elected representatives of the State of Minnesota. I want to extend my gratitude and appreciation for you and what you do.
I understand what it’s like to work for a diverse population of people. The GLBT community is not homogeneous, but rich with different groups within groups that are unified by the common topics of sexual identity, gender, and orientation. I live in the area that I represent and walk into the restaurants, bars, co-ops, grocery stores, churches, parks, and other places where I run into our readership. I am a part of our readership and I am friends with many in our readership. I see the interactions on Facebook with people in the community and face the music of this magazine’s decisions just as you do as a representative in Minnesota. Like you, I know that we more often hear the points about how we can improve over how well we’re doing. Like you, I am privy to more information than ever–confidential, embargoed information–that makes it difficult to sort out what should be discussed and what should remain in the background. Like you, I imagine, I have never held as important a role as this.
Like you, I have other things to do than talk about Same-Sex Marriage (I said “other,” not “other more important” things). We put out 26 issues a year according to our Editorial Calendar and they cover an array of topics relevant to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally members of our state–and beyond, thanks to the internet. I work on my budgets, I hire and seek out talent, I talk to our readers, I research topics, I go to photo shoots, I attend fundraisers, I write correspondence and articles. I conduct interviews. I make countless decisions a day. Like you do. And, like you, I have been presented with the crucial topic to cover: Same-Sex Marriage. I make room for it. It is history in the making. And, like us, the rest of the GLBT community has other things to do, too.
Like us, the people of the GLBT community are busy living their lives. These lives might be those of single people who are looking for love, coupled people who have found it, or people who are indifferent to the subject of love. This community has people of different races, creeds, political parties, income levels, education levels, and any other demographic element that can be measured. This community is comprised of your constituents who pay taxes and have an effect on every industry and neighborhood of Minnesota. There are more of us than you can see, as being open about being GLBT is still risky…but becoming less so each day that passes.
For the people who Same-Sex Marriage will not affect, it is an abstract idea–something unknown to fear or find threatening. You have the opportunity to help them form their opinions on the matter. No, conversations with people may not result in a “You’re right–I guess I hadn’t been looking at it that way” from people, but you will have led by example and assisted in making room for a broader consideration of the topic. Did you notice how Governor Dayton so effectively handled it in his State of the State address? “Let me mention one other cause, which is controversial but consistent with my faith and my principles and, more importantly, consistent with this country’s founding principles and its Constitution. I believe that every Minnesotan should have the freedom to marry legally the person she or he loves, whether of the same or other sex.” What he did there was to 1.) validate that it is controversial at this time, 2.) own that he has a faith and this position is in alignment with his faith, and 3.) make it clear that this is a matter of justice and rights as consistent with the Constitution. He did your heavy lifting by giving you clear leadership in this matter. Please pass that leadership and fortification on to the people you represent.
You must lead and educate your constituents in this issue, just as with any other issue that they may not be familiar with. Educate yourself so that you are confident when you respond to your constituents. This will not affect opposite-sex marriages. No clergy is forced to perform marriages that they do not want to perform. There is a separation between Church and State that isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a requirement. The Supreme Court may or may not address the rights of Minnesotans, so we shouldn’t wait for them to do the work for us. These are not “special” rights that are being sought. We won’t be wanting to legalize polygamy or bestiality if this legislation passes. There is so much out there in life for which there isn’t a gene, but is very real and valid, anyhow. Same-sex parents are already raising well-adjusted and healthy children. And, if you’re really interested in educating your people, take it a step further to not only dispel rumors, but also tell them how allowing same-sex couples to join marriage will be beneficial to the welfare of our society and boost the economy. We’re talking about people and relationships that exist and deserve to be recognized as assets to our civilization. Stand up for this community and lead your people in the direction that society is already going.
Let me acknowledge that you might feel a bit like a lone voice in the wilderness. I understand this, too. Putting out a Wedding Issue for a community that can’t get married seems a little crazy, but Lavender’s been doing it for years. First, on a smaller scale with a few articles in a particular issue…but, as of a year ago, we’ve put out two comprehensive, single-topic issues about weddings for the GLBT community and we’re looking forward to the best one yet, coming out in two weeks. To be a leader is to look at the future and determine where we are going. Looking at the signs around us in our culture and forming a vision of what can feasibly happen is crucial to leadership. In this specific case of same-sex ceremonies and weddings, the signs are clear: people are already celebrating their relationships with these types of ceremonies. The laws will follow. That’s where you come in. And that’s where we need you to join us in this vision of legalizing Same-Sex Marriage.
To say that campaigning and voting for Same-Sex Marriage is an “overreach” is the same kind of thinking that diminishes a conversation to the same effect as “homosexuality is a choice.” It stops the conversation where it is and doesn’t give it the attention it obviously deserves, the attention it demands. The people to whom social justice and equal rights is an overreach are the people who will never see its merit. They will never “be ready” for this. I’m guessing that they don’t know anyone who is openly gay or lesbian because, if they did, they’d know that the most effect this legislation would have on their lives is that they might have more weddings to attend.
To the GOP, let me encourage you that by voting for Same-Sex Marriage, you will be fully claiming both an existing and a new group of GLBT supporters who align with your conservative values but have been waiting for you to step up to take this liberty-furthering measure.
To the DFL, voting for Same-Sex Marriage aligns with your DFL values and those of your Governor. You are in control as the majority and will be held to a higher level of scrutiny and accountability if Marriage does not prevail. Claim your leadership role and bring your state to where it needs to be in this Civil Rights movement.
As a leader in the media, it is my responsibility to make sure Lavender discusses the hard topics in addition to covering its usual editorial calendar. When you’re home for the summer with your constituents, I know that your job isn’t on hiatus–you’re still working. Know that I will be, too, and we’ll be covering whatever transpired in these next few months; hopefully, with glory, laud, and honor.
There are always risks in any job, but I will never shirk away from doing the right thing because of those risks. I hope you can see your role in a similar light and do the right thing by voting to legalize Same-Sex Marriage in Minnesota.
With hope and gratitude,
Andrea Lien, Managing Editor
Related: Those of us from outstate Minnesota must go home and “be unapologetically normal.” More in
“Happy New Year,” Issue 434, January 12, 2012.