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Rally kicks off campaign to legalize same-sex marriage

capitol rotunda
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
The rotunda, the surrounding corridors and the balconies on the second and third floors were packed with an overflow crowd whose cheering and clapping had turned the statehouse into a giant gay echo chamber.

Thursday afternoon the elevators on the east side of the Capitol rotunda opened to reveal a young man carrying a slender laptop emblazoned with a large National Rifle Association sticker. He looked, in a word, petrified.

The rotunda, the surrounding corridors and the balconies on the second and third floors were packed with an overflow crowd whose cheering and clapping had turned the statehouse into a giant echo chamber. A giant gay echo chamber.

The outsized Valentine’s Day celebration marked the kickoff to Minnesotans United for All Families campaign to convince the DFL-dominated Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. The fervor could be heard even two floors down in the catacombs that connect the Capitol to other parts of the state office complex.

Those in attendance hoped that unlike May 2011 when a similar crowd packed the rotunda to protest a proposed gay-marriage ban, the thunder of emotion would sway hesitant lawmakers.

By the end of the month, Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark, both gay Minneapolis DFLers, told the throng they would introduce companion bills to recognize same-sex marriage rights. The supporters could help, they said, by forging a relationship to their elected representatives and explaining, in personal terms, why the issue is urgent.

“Yesterday I got a visit from some constituents who said, ‘Sen. Dibble, what if we put love at the center of everything we do?” Dibble said. “Marriage matters, family matters.”

Even though the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was defeated decisively at the ballot box last fall, support from the legislative leadership for recognizing same-sex marriage this session has been tepid.

Concerns voiced by ranking members of both chambers include the fear that the DFL will be accused overreach, concern that the issue could muddy budget-year waters and — likely wishful thinking — a desire for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and resolve the question. 

A number of DFLers who were elected from districts that voted in support of the proposed amendment fear the issue could hurt them when they run for re-election.

House Speaker Paul Thissen is said to support gay marriage but also to be worried about putting his caucus-mates in a political bind. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk is thought to want the question kept off the table this session.

Lawmakers who attended Thursday’s rally included Sen. John Marty, who for years has introduced bills seeking to legalize same-sex marriage, as well as Patricia Torres Ray, Sandy Pappas, Jeff Hayden and Tony Lourey, all DFLers. Also present were Reps. Jim Davnie, Susan Allen and Carolyn Laine, all DFLers as well.

Boost from Dayton

The campaign got a major boost last week from Gov. Mark Dayton, who declared his desire to see marriage rights expanded 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,” Dayton said. “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.

“Last year,” the governor continued, “Minnesotans began a conversation about why marriage matters and we found our common belief that it is about love, commitment and responsibility. I want Minnesota to be a state which affirms that freedom for one means freedom for everyone and where no one is told it is illegal to marry the person you love.”

A continued conversation is exactly what Minnesotans United is planning. After ballot box losses in 31 states, same-sex marriage advocates at the national level spent recent years using social science methods to determine why they were losing when polls show Americans are increasingly comfortable with gay rights.

One surprising answer: Many had not considered that rights notwithstanding, gays and lesbians might want to marry for the same reasons as heterosexuals. And it hadn’t occurred to many of those in same-sex relationships that they needed to say as much. 

Then registered with the state as a ballot question committee, Minnesotans United staged hundreds of thousands of conversations via social media, house parties and a sophisticated phone-banking effort fueled by some 27,000 specially trained volunteers. 

Campaign roadmap

The process left the campaign with a detailed roadmap to pockets of support and resistance in every legislative district in the state. The information and the infrastructure will now be tapped to stage conversations with lawmakers.

“Send a photo of your family, tell them why this matters to you,” said Jake Loesch, communications director for Minnesotans United. “Tell them this is actually something we can do this year.”  

The faith communities that mobilized in opposition to last year’s constitutional amendment will be key, said Faith Director Javen Swanson. Lawmakers can expect spring break invitations from religious groups in their communities, he said.

gay marriage supporter
MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
A gay marriage supporter holds a sign at Thursday's capitol rally.

One of the things they’ll hear is that gay marriage has gathered new supporters since the election. “We’re hearing from new people all the time,” said Swanson. “We’re hearing from new people who haven’t done anything with us before. People who maybe 18 months ago did harbor some doubts and who are starting to come along.”

Some of those new people may be statehouse Republicans, a few of whom are rumored to be rethinking their stances. Minnesotans United has hired a  nine-member lobbying team that boasts big names with long experience working with the GOP.

Nor is the possibility of cross-party voting the only possibility for muddied waters. The introduction of a civil union bill — something that has happened in other states — could provide a convenient political compromise for the reluctant.

Finally, Minnesota for Marriage, the coalition that worked in favor of the failed ballot amendment, has yet to tip its hand. At the moment, its advocacy appears to be focused on the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear two same-sex marriage cases in its current term.

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Comments (2)

This Issue Is Wrapped Around a Single Question

The "conservative" perspective is built around a particular stereotypical definition of,...

what it means to be a man,...

(that role having been created as a reaction to the innate insecurity that all men instinctively have that our only ACTUAL necessity in the biological existence of our species is that of sperm donor - all else can be done by women, too, who can then very easily cast us aside once the deed is done.)

For my "conservative" friends, it's pretty simple. To be a man involves:

1) the overarching belief that men are superior to women in every way that counts, (to compensate for the reality that men are actually largely superfluous)...

2) having sex with a woman (the first experience of such "proving" your proper manhood with premarital sex being frowned upon,...

but wink, wink, nudge, nudge, "loose" girls being fair game when you're proving your manhood, and deserving zero respect afterward because they were willing to have sex with you without the benefit of marriage),...

2) finding a respectable girl who will marry you ("loose" girls need not apply),...

3) fathering children,...

4) finding a job which provides sufficient income to provide for your family and wins the respect of your fellow men,...

5) finding time for male bonding-type recreational activities (hunting, fishing, military or militia pursuits, building things, etc.) where you can get together with no women present to remind yourselves how different you are (normal) from your wives (who are seen as dependent and defective) and commiserate about how your wives drive you nuts with all their demands.

This is the purpose and definition of marriage for "conservatives:" to reinforce traditional ideas and ideals of masculinity (and to keep women in their proper places).

This is why conservatives feel their marriages are THREATENED by same-gender marriage. When gay marriage becomes a legal and normal part of society, marriage will no longer serve the main purpose it has for "conservatives" -

the reinforcement of the macho masculine stereotype as the only acceptable way men can be. There will be far less pressure on boys and men to continue to constrain themselves to that old macho male stereotype.

Of course many will choose to do so, but the door will be flung open which allows men to choose who they will be, rather than be forced into a role which doesn't fit very well for many of us (nor our wives, for that matter).

Especially for those "conservative" men who have worked their entire lives to force themsleves to adhere to a stereotypical male identity that doesn't fit them well at all,

the idea that they might now have to face up to figuring out who they REALLY are and what role identity would fit them best threatens to shake loose the very sand upon which their lives have been built (ALL our lives, of course, ALWAYS being built on sand in this realm of existence).

Perhaps what we need to offer our "conservative" straight male friends and neighbors (and some of their wives), is that they can choose to continue to be who they are,...

the best possible exemplars of the traditional masculine and feminine stereotypes they can manage to be, even if those choices are no longer chiseled into the granite of "straights-only" marriage.

Perhaps my "conservative" clergy colleagues could hold a series of workshops in local "conservative" churches to help their members come to terms with why the lives they're living still make sense, even though they were previously only living those particular lives because they were taught they had no other choice,...

and helping them to now re-make that choice, consciously and intentionally, that they never actually made before.

It would, after all, have been far better for those "conservatives" if they had been educated and allowed to make that conscious choice in the first place, and likely would reduce the very high divorce rate in the Bible Belt and among "conservatives," everywhere, if they now are allowed and encouraged to do so rather than just leaving it up to "tradition."

Civil right

Access to civil marriage should be a civil right. We need to ask our legislators to make a small change in civil law that will allow for recognition of marriages from other states and allow loving, committed adult Minnesota couples to obtain marriage licenses.