Politics: Vanguard

By Brett Stevens March 7, 2013

Categories: Causes, Our Affairs, Politics

Some people have questioned why I’m writing about ideas other than the “all or nothing” same-sex marriage legislation proposed by Minnesotans United for All Families among other groups.  They have also questioned why Lavender would publish my work, my questions, and my concerns because it has been argued it’s counter-productive.  These are fair questions that deserve honest answers.  Therefore I will attempt to do so.

Four months ago, I read these words in the Pioneer Press in an article by Doug Belden called, ‘DFL Balks at putting gay marriage on the front burner” dated November 8, 2012.

“For Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, who has said he’ll seek to become majority leader, a fight over marriage is not a top priority.

“I think anybody that has policy ideas needs to find a way to put them on the back shelf right now. This state has serious financial challenges,” Bakk said at the news conference.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, who is in line to become House speaker, said it’s too soon to set off in a new direction for marriage.

Asked whether he would sign a bill legalizing gay marriage, [Gov.] Dayton demurred. “We just had an election yesterday,” he said. “I think it’s time for everybody to catch their breath.”

Aides said Dayton’s support for same-sex marriage has not weakened but that he didn’t want to appear to be pre-empting agenda setting by new lawmakers.”

In the same article Sen. Scott Dibble, Rep. Karen Clark, and MN United for All Families’ Richard Carlbom said the conversation must continue and we need to think about what to do next.  That was thin soup indeed.

So, I wrote ‘DFL’s Big Gay Farce’ because it seemed once again nothing was going to get done.  No one was really agitating.  The political actors all seemed willing to complacently accept the status quo which was no Marriage Amendment but no same-sex relationship recognition either.  It was into this breach Lavender provided me a venue to question authority.  After questioning motives, I then came back with a compromise position.  Of course, at that point no one was saying much and the DFL was talking about doing nothing.

Three months ago I wrote we should work toward something, a compromise between doing nothing and asking for it all.   On December 13, 2012, Lavender published ‘Earnest Money’ urging something to happen from the failure of the Marriage Amendment.  I asked for a repeal of the state DOMA law.

The December 13, 2012 issue also included a powerful essay from Lavender’s editor, Andy Lien titled, ‘The Psychology of Victory.’  Let’s keep in mind, the DFL and GLBT activists for a month hadn’t uttered a peep to the public about plans toward fulfilling a long-term promise to the community.  They had told us they were FOR us and once they were in power they would make sure the state would recognize our relationships.  Lien said these important words in that article.

“I don’t know where you are in this process of talking about what happened, where we are now, and what’s coming up.  I don’t blame you if you’re in the same place I was when I was approached with the proclamation that Marriage Equality has been put on the back burner.  You might disagree that it has been, you might agree that it should be, you might be in the same place I was and want to say, “stop talking right now.”  I understand.

We can’t stop talking right now.  As the only media outlet dedicated to this GLBT community, we have got to keep talking.”

And keep talking we did.  For over a month, Lavender was the only publication saying we need to step up and get this issue moving.  They got me an interview with the only DFLer in that ‘back burner’ story who was as miffed as most of us were.  That person was Sen. John Marty.  On December 11, 2012, he spoke with me and confirmed he’d propose a bill.  It was something, far more than had been promised by anyone else.  That interview wasn’t published until January 10, 2013 issue, but it seemed, Marty was our only hope at that point.

Two months ago, December 20, 2012, MN United for All Families announced it would lobby to legalize same-sex marriage, according to MPR’s Tom Scheck.  In the article, press secretary Jake Loesch is quoted as saying:

“All of this is initial planning and we’re just starting to communicate and put all of our plans together.” Loesch said. “But the goal of the organization will be to make 2013 the year that we secure the freedom to marry for all couples in Minnesota.”

This was great.  As far as I was concerned, the more the merrier.  We needed to get this topic white hot in order to get something passed. Since the DFL leaders including the governor didn’t seem to believe it mattered, we had to get the community involved and active.

I believed the Marty interview would help jump-start the discussion but another problem seemed to arise.  It seemed DFL leaders were trying to persuade people that the Supreme Court would “hear two cases challenging laws that define marriage as only the union of a man and a woman, he [then presumptive House speaker Paul Thissen] suggested lawmakers may wait until after the justices rule.”  This was reported December 10, 2012 by Bill Salisbury in the Pioneer Press, ‘Minnesota budget deficit the No. 1 priority for incoming legislature.’

So two months ago, I wrote and Lavender Magazine published ‘Waiting for Superman’ urging the GLBT community not to fall for this ‘wait and see’ tactic.  Meanwhile, Gov. Dayton was busy telling us same-sex relationship recognition wasn’t something he’d do anything substantive to help along.  In the January 8th, 2013 piece by Baird Helgeson, Dayton said he’s not going push this issue up any mountain.

One month ago, in January 24, 2013’s issue, I wrote “What’s in a Name.”

For some reason, my pushing for alternatives and compromises was seen by some as undermining the same-sex marriage effort.  How this works I’ll never understand but some people were furious.  Meanwhile, I just thought I was continuing a conversation that had been dropped by everyone except Lavender.  In fact, Lavender editor Andy Lien also made the point nothing seemed to be happening and time was ticking in the February 7, 2013 issue, ‘A little nudge.’

“I’m not going to tell you that these conversations are easy (not that the VOTE NO ones were). We still need to talk to people who don’t believe same-sex couples should join marriage. What’s different, though, is that the talks have to also happen with people we see as friendly, our allies in either political affiliation or Allies in self-identification. Talking to people about the importance of the freedom to marry and the priority of civil rights usually involves telling people they’re wrong. If it’s not explicitly said, it’s implied. It’s saying that by thinking the freedom to marry should be put off until after the important stuff is handled, you are incorrect in not seeing civil rights for what they are: priorities.”

Lien never wrote about anything except the passage of same-sex marriage, but she identified the movement as going too slowly.  We were being pushed aside and things didn’t happen and I was concerned.  If we don’t move quickly enough, the impetus could fall to pieces and we’d get nothing at all, which is something I cannot abide.

So, like I did with my second article in Lavender, I continued pushing for something even if it means a compromise.   I had a conversation with Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R) who supported the Marriage Amendment but listened to arguments from our side about relationship recognition.  I have reached out to several activists and legislators and spoken with them off the record.  I’m trying to get a two-sided conversation going.

Since I’m not seeing real movement by the GLBT community and I don’t see a coherent path forward, it appears same-sex marriage in Minnesota is stalling.  In fact, in my interview with Richard Carlbom of MN United for All Families, I tried to express my concern this isn’t spreading and we need a plan B, as it were.  This too hasn’t been well received which is fine.  I have no problem with criticism of my ideas or my treatment of them.

However, I do think my intentions have been honorable.  I haven’t done a single thing to argue against same-sex marriage.  All I’ve done, and everyone at Lavender for that matter, has been to drive the discussion and movement forward.  We were the ones who stood up and questioned political leaders who didn’t want to do anything.  We have tried to motivate and give ideas to the community.  I don’t believe that makes us the problem.  In the past four months, Lavender and I have tried to move this issue forward.  We have done so before other people jumped into to the fight.

The DFL leadership and some activists have argued they have been working behind the scenes.  That is fine but why were we left in the dark?  Sen. Marty promised to propose a same-sex marriage bill in January.  Why wait?  Why the secrecy?  There is nothing complicated about the bill, it’s been introduced before.   I think criticism of us has not been fair or consistent with the facts on the ground.  We have been part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Those who criticize us, please remember that.  We are both on the same side.

Contact Your Politicians
Governor Mark Dayton
Phone: (651) 201-3400
Email: http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form/ (Web Contact Form)

Senator Tom Bakk
Phone: (651) 296-8881
Email: sen.tom.bakk@senate.mn

Representative Paul Thissen
Phone: (651) 296-5375
Email: rep.paul.thissen@house.mn

Representative Erin Murphy
Phone: (651) 296-5496
Email:  rep.erin.murphy@house.mn

See also:
“The DFL’s Big Gay Farce” from Issue 457, November 29, 2012
“Three of Four Top Elected Minnesota Politicians Comment on the Marriage Debate” from Issue 458, December 13, 2012
“‘Earnest Money:’ Repeal DOMA Now” from Issue 458, December 13, 2012
“Why We Can’t Wait” an Interview with Sen. John Marty from Issue 460, January 10, 2013
Waiting for Superman” from Issue 460, January 10, 2013
“Don’t Skip Dessert” an Interview with Rep. Ryan Winkler from Issue 461, January 24, 2013
“What’s In A Name?” A Case for Civil Unions from Issue 461, January 24, 2013
Outreach: Conversation with Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R)” from Issue 462, February 7, 2013
Carrie Chapman Catt’s Winning Plan” from Issue 462, February 7, 2013
“Our Family Albums” from Issue 463, February 21, 2013
Talking Strategy with Richard Carlbom [of Minnesotans United for All Families]” from Issue 463, February 21, 2013

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