Freedom to Marry and Priorities
[Transcribed from a voicemail message and used with permission.]
I did what you or someone else said in Lavender about contacting Mark Dayton, Tom Bakk, Paul Thissen, and Erin Murphy. Most of them just took messages, but someone answered the phone at Paul Thissen’s and she said to me, not empathetically, “Well, we’ve heard from both sides.” And I said, “Well, are you more concerned with holding your seat or voting your conscience?”
I was just thinking back to the 1960s, when we didn’t have equal rights for African Americans who were called negroes—and in 1967 a black man and a white woman could not get married until the law was changed—and I got really emotional. I got slightly angry. I don’t understand what is going on. The Marriage Amendment was defeated and then they say things like, “Well, we’re concerned about what the people in the rural districts say.” Well, how do we make progress?
It seems like we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, don’t we? I talked to these people and I said, “You tackle the budget, but we can tackle other issues at the same time.”
Marriage and Journalistic Responsibility
As I read the last issue of Lavender I became more and more angry that the Twin Cities’ leading GLBT publication would choose this time to take a stance that civil unions would be a reasonable compromise to marriage equality. To publish two articles that mention this as a potential concession at the time when the MN Legislature is about to submit a bill is both irresponsible and potentially damaging to a movement that has never had greater support and momentum.
While I am sure that the author’s opinions are shared by others in the community and–quite honestly, not unreasonable–I strongly feel that conceding or settling for civil unions at this time would be short-sighted and serve as a temporary solution at best. With the tide of public sentiment moving more and more in favor of full marriage equality, Minnesota is poised for success in this area and it is my belief that adding the option of civil unions to an already emotionally complex dialogue is counter-productive. I can only hope that the law makers in St. Paul don’t interpret the opinion of one man who was given a forum in a GLBT magazine as an endorsement from the community that civil unions are good enough or would be seen as a reasonable alternative to full marriage equality.
The article entitled “What’s in a Name” pointed out that if civil unions could be enacted in this legislative session and included all the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, we should accept that as a success. What is missing from his argument is the difficulty that would arise from administering a second set of policies related to civil unions and the complexity of any form of recognition outside of the Minnesota state government. This is especially relevant considering the decisions related to DOMA pending at the US Supreme Court.
Haven’t we learned over time that the concept of “Separate But Equal” simply doesn’t work? Having a legal distinction between civil unions and marriage will allow for future policies to only include one or the other definition and for private sector organizations to potentially limit benefits only to people who have participated in “real marriage.”
In an attempt to be responsible journalists, I believe that Lavender should have at least published an accompanying article outlining the challenges of implementing civil unions or included those challenges in a single article written by a credentialed author with expertise in this area. As it stands, it seems Lavender‘s position would have been to tell Rosa Parks that sitting in the back of the bus was acceptable since she at least got a seat on the bus.
I found Brian Gilligan’s letter in response to my article “What’s in a Name” to be thoughtful, insightful, and raising some key important issues so I want to respond.
I started my series of articles in Lavender based on the enormous shock that nobody in government wanted to fight for same-sex couple recognition, marriage or otherwise. In my interview with Sen. John Marty, I was assured a bill would be introduced by him the first day of the session and as of this writing, it has not. No bill has been introduced by anyone. I have watched with growing concern as the activists in the GLBT community have coalesced around a single theme and without an expressed strategy for getting our committed relationships recognized. Therefore, I’ve responded with questions and ideas.
Gilligan questions my article on this vital point, “What is missing from his argument is the difficulty that would arise from administering a second set of policies related to civil unions and the complexity of any form of recognition outside of the Minnesota state government.”
We have five states which have civil unions and we know Vermont started with civil unions and then granted same-sex couples marriage. It certainly is something to question. Is there a substantive difference? Nothing I’ve read has suggested civil union status has caused any problems. However, my argument was never against marriage but with the political reality we don’t have a coalition large enough to pass it. I don’t want to wait ten years or whatever to get a seat on the bus.
You see, that is the problem with his other very good point. “As it stands, it seems Lavender‘s position would have been to tell Rosa Parks that sitting in the back of the bus was acceptable since she at least got a seat on the bus.” My point, and not Lavender’s, is just that. In order to get on the bus we may need to get a seat on the left side, and not the right side of the bus, front or back. Civil union recognition in other states has been with the same benefits and obligations as marriage. At this point we are standing along the side of the road and I’m just not willing to forgo getting on that bus.
Is it a concession to sit next to people in traditional marriages on the bus? Is the idea of “equal” mean we are the “same?” I think not. But, I’m glad to have sparked a discussion. We won’t achieve anything by standing quietly and pleading with downcast eyes. We need to make these arguments and make noise. Otherwise, my committed relationship will continue to be legally that of strangers. I don’t want to be left in the cold any longer.