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The movement for LGBT equality in Minnesota: Storytelling and activism in action

The movement for LGBT equality in Minnesota was built by individuals who were brave enough to share their stories.

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The policy changes made this week are significant, and yet they do not guarantee equality and justice. We must continue to work together to make Minnesota an even greater state.

Tuesday was an amazing victory for LGBT equality in Minnesota.  Thanks to Gov. Mark Dayton and our legislators, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can now marry the person they love.

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OutFront Minnesota/Anne Hodson
Monica Meyer

At the Capitol earlier this week, I talked with OutFront Minnesota’s founding executive director, Ann DeGroot, about the roots of the LGBT movement in our state. Of course, we talked about Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who applied for a marriage license in Minneapolis 40 years ago. Ann also talked about the group of “rowdy lesbian librarians” from Minneapolis who, in the late 1980s, fought for health-care benefits for their partners (what later would be known as domestic-partner benefits).

We talked about the courageous individuals who paved the way for the success we now celebrate. These champions of equality risked everything to come out, share their personal stories and become activists. Ann reminded me that she and C. Scott Cooper drove all around the state to connect and engage with other LGBT people. No Facebook, no Internet, no email, just meeting people in person and talking on the phone.

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We recalled the history that was made 20 years ago when the Minnesota Human Rights Amendment was passed. For those too young to remember, Rep. Karen Clark and the late Sen. Allan Spear were instrumental in passing this important legislation, which prohibits discrimination against LGBT people in housing, education, employment  and public accommodations. Minnesota was the first state to enact gender-identity protections. We also remembered the many attempts to repeal this law over the past two decades.

The Annual Lobby Day

We talked about OutFront Minnesota’s Annual Lobby Day for LGBT equality and how, over the past 10 years, it has grown to become the biggest in the nation. In 2006, more than 2,000 members of the clergy and faith community came to the Capitol to oppose an anti-marriage amendment. We were successful that year and in other years, thanks in large part to trailblazers Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Clark. But in May 2011, the ballot initiative to permanently limit the freedom to marry was passed. It was on that night that OutFront Minnesota and Project 515, led by Ann Kaner-Roth, launched Minnesotans United for All Families.

The movement for LGBT equality in Minnesota was built by individuals who were brave enough to share their stories. Individuals who spoke out for justice, oftentimes the sole voice in their community. We shared what equality meant to us personally and we talked about our families. Over the past two years, the conversation has grown. Now, members of the LGBT and allied communities, together, are talking about the importance of valuing and embracing all families in Minnesota, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, faith tradition or geography.

And this week, we are celebrating marriage equality not only because we shared our stories with each other, but because courageous members of the LGBT community stepped forward over the past three decades and became activists in order to create lasting change throughout our state.

The movement for LGBT equality grew by leaps and bounds with the creation of Minnesotans United, led by Richard Carlbom. What we accomplished is amazing. We engaged volunteers, activists and leaders all over the state and together we built the largest people-powered movement in the history of Minnesota.

Next steps

What’s next? The policy changes made this week are significant, and yet  they do not guarantee equality and justice. We must continue to work together to make Minnesota an even greater state. Let’s continue to live by the Golden Rule and treat each other with dignity and respect. Let’s teach our children to become storytellers and activists.

The historic events of this past week are powerful proof of what can be accomplished when we work together to create positive change.

Monica Meyer is the executive director of OutFront Minnesota. Under her leadership, OutFront Minnesota co-founded Minnesotans United with Project 515. She lives in South Minneapolis with her wife, Michele Steinwald, and their dog, Miette.

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