Happy New Year. The last time I wrote, I talked about the cognitive dissonance of balancing the victory of defeating the marriage amendment last November just to have the issue of same-sex marriage be dropped by legislators. We’re in a holding pattern until leadership takes the reigns and I really hope that’ll have happened by the time this hits the stands a week from today. When this hits the stands, it’ll be the day after the start of the 2013 legislative session at the Capitol. By God, I hope we’ll have rallied.
We’re good at rallies. They usually run a bit long, we’re so good at them. We’re passionate about this issue of attaining the freedom to marry. Our speeches laud previous civil rights leaders and activists and we quote them; we say that this issue is no different. Marriage is a freedom that this community has the right to as citizens of this country. This community is an established and recognized group of people that has been defended as a minority, as well as a group of people that will not be discriminated against in the workplace, in academic institutions, in matters where being separate and independent people are concerned.
Now, in matters where joining together as a unit are concerned, this community needs consistent recognition as a group that should not be discriminated against. It needs to be reiterated that to join together with someone as a family unit is seen as an asset in our society. Resources are shared, security is boosted, health is improved, and happiness is arguably more widespread. If these statements weren’t true, marriage would not be something to attain, rights and privileges would not be attached to marriage, and marriage would be a non-issue for most people as it would not be as desirable, or even as necessary. Therefore, same-sex couples who would seek to join marriage would improve our society as being more supported and legal in the sharing of resources, security, health, and happiness.
And this is a good thing for us as a society.
This good thing–this positivity–is what needs to be shared in this next leg of attaining the freedom to marry. It’s both more nuanced and encompassing than this simple version, of course. It would involve children that already exist in families that already exist headed by same-sex couples that already exist. It would include couples that don’t yet exist that would be comprised of people who have not yet come out. It would mean that same-sex couples, once legally married, would have to go through more hoops and legal proceedings to no longer be together as it would require divorce. It would mean that language would become easier as marriage will be marriage whether in passing on the street or passing on in inheritance.
During the VOTE NO campaign, we shared our stories. We had conversations as to why marriage matters to us. We talked about rights. We pleaded our cases. We persuaded. We came out. We cried. We overwhelmingly made the point that to limit marriage to be between a man and a woman in the Minnesota Constitution was unacceptable. We need to continue these conversations.
What I’ve been grappling with and listening to in the time since the election is this issue about what the state voting down the marriage amendment meant. As people talk, I hear them say that to assume that the state is ready for same-sex marriage is to misinterpret the election results… that defeating the amendment does not equate to wanting to extend the freedom to marry to include same-sex couples.
This is true. The one does not mean the other.
But, we don’t need to underestimate Minnesota, either. We don’t have to assume if the legislators legalize same-sex marriage right away that the backlash will be substantial or long-lasting. Extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples will benefit all of us as a state, as a nation. It is a movement that will happen, and it can happen now. We are ready enough…the people who aren’t may never really be, until they’re forced to be for the greater good of society.
And, I can guarantee you, as far as the future of Civil Rights in the United States of America is concerned, to not move progressively on the issue of extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples will have far more negative of a backlash than people who are upset by it. To be worried about the ripple effect of one action to make things right with a minority in the United States of America versus the inaction that fortifies discrimination is short-sighted and un-American.
So, with this, I charge you with challenging others in those conversations that include statements like “the state isn’t ready for same-sex marriage” or “the state has other priorities.” Ask them what is there to be ready for? Stop letting people frame same-sex marriage as something that is negative. Reclaim the conversations we started having last year and express to them the positive aspects of extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. And, if you’re feeling particularly engaging, ask them when would be right and when should civil rights be a priority, because if they can’t give specific dates, I’d maintain the answer is always NOW.