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LGBT rights: Minnesota has made historic progress, but still has much to do

Ken Martin
Ken Martin
October is LGBT History Month, a time when we honor and celebrate the historical struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ+ people who boldly chose to speak out against bigotry and oppression and show their true colors to a world that often confines them to the shadows.

Elevating the accomplishments of these fiercely courageous people is not only fundamental to a complete account of history, it is crucial to combat isolation and provide hope amongst the LGBTQ+ community. As we turn back and gaze down the long path we’ve traveled on, I’m reminded of how much progress toward becoming a more inclusive society has been made in Minnesota over the past years.

Just over half a decade ago, Senate Republicans attempted to pass a constitutional amendment that would deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry. LGBTQ+ Minnesotans and their allies bravely led the battle to strike down this narrow-minded proposal and to recognize that love is love, regardless of gender. I’m proud that the DFL, driven by our mission to build a more just Minnesota, was one of those allies standing alongside activists and dedicating immense time and energy to placing phone calls, knocking on doors, and engaging as many Minnesotans as possible in conversations about what it means to sincerely love and accept one another.

In the end, the hard work of so many Minnesotans paid off. In the November 2012 election, the would-be amendment was defeated and Minnesota became the first state in the nation to reject a ban on same-sex marriage. Voters had sent a clear message that there is no place for discrimination in Minnesota, and they made sure to cast their ballots for the party that carried that message forward. As a result, the DFL took the House, Senate, and governorship, and with control of all three, we began to draft legislation to guarantee LGBTQ+ Minnesotans the freedom to marry. That August, jubilant crowds cheered across the state as Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill, triumphantly declaring that “love is the law of the land.”

We had emerged victorious on the right side of history.

However, that history is not over yet. While achieving marriage equality was certainly a monumental step, I’m also reminded of how much further we need to go.

Just this past year, DFL legislators introduced a bill to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors and vulnerable adults. Not only is conversion therapy a discredited, pseudo-scientific practice, but it conveys to LGBTQ+ people that they are wrong or sick, and that they need to fundamentally change their identities to be truly deserving of love and lead fulfilling lives. Denying the legitimacy of someone’s very existence is profoundly hurtful, and the emotional wounds inflicted upon young children are especially long-lasting and damaging.

Despite all this, Senate Republicans chose not to exercise compassion and voted against this bill. It is both deeply tragic and shameful that Republicans are choosing, yet again, the wrong side of not only history, but of compassion and human dignity.

Although this month we celebrate the visibility of LGBTQ+ people and movements throughout time, I can’t help but remain mindful that not everyone is safe to partake in this celebration. Many of our most vulnerable youth have been taught not to love and value themselves, and in their failure to ban conversion therapy, Senate Republicans have contributed to this unwelcoming atmosphere.

This month I want all LGBTQ+ Minnesotans to know that DFLers are committed to standing side by side with you in bridging LGBT history toward a future where everyone can live free from discrimination and proudly be their true and authentic selves.

Ken Martin is chair of the DFL Party.


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