It has finally been achieved in Minnesota. Marriage has arrived for GLBT couples. The effort was not without its ups and downs.
Within hours of the November 6, 2012, election victory over the proposed Minnesota Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage, DFL Governor Mark Dayton, DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, and DFL House Representative Erin Murphy held a press conference. Although they were celebrating the failure of the proposed constitutional amendment, gay marriage was simply not on their agenda for this legislative session.
Minnesotans United, Project 515, OutFront Minnesota, other groups and individuals went on the offensive to promote and achieve marriage equality. In parallel, Lavender devoted a series of articles to persuade legislators to act now. The result was history being made.
The DFL would not pass a straightforward “marriage” bill. Too many of its rural members were afraid of losing their jobs in the next election if they voted for “gay marriage”. Ten DFL Senators and seventeen DFL Representatives saw their own districts support the mean-spirited amendment. Most DFLers would also not settle for the Republicans’ “civil union” counter proposal. Few voices called for a middle ground approach during the marriage hearings at the Capitol. Above all, both major political parties members feared that the widespread religious view of marriage could jeopardize their seats in the next election.
Then came the great compromise to tweak the name. That was easy. Instead of the DFL’s “marriage” or the Republicans’ “civil unions”, “civil marriage” was deemed the happy medium. Risk-averse politicians could now run for reelection claiming that they did not back marriage, but rather “civil marriage”. Religion was saved.
Let’s thank the organizations that lobbied for this advancement in our rights. Together we have overcome a large hurdle by this compromise. The seventy-five representatives and thirty-seven senators who embraced the bill also deserve our praise. Thank you and the governor for changing your minds since November 7, 2012.
More changes are needed to achieve total equality. Now that the community is leaps and bounds closer to the finish line, the focus must turn to the dozens of state laws that still discriminate against it. For example, nothing in the State Human Rights Act of 1993 is to be interpreted “to mean the state of Minnesota condones homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle” or “to permit the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in education institutions.”
Judging by the admirable resilience of the 2012-2013 actors towards marriage equality, legislators should brace for 2014.