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Waiting for marriage-vote results: ‘This was deeply personal’

Michael Adam Latz is senior rabbi of Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis; he was active in opposing the marriage amendment.

Rabbi Michael Adam Latz: "We rest our heads on the hard pillow of moral leadership."
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen

Part 1 in a series

Michael Adam Latz is senior rabbi of Shir Tikvah Congregation in Minneapolis, a married gay man and father of two, ages 5½ and 9. He spent election night in downtown St. Paul with several hundred other supporters of Minnesotans United for All Families, the group that worked to defeat this year’s proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He describes what it was like waiting for the results:

I showed up at RiverCentre around 8:30 knowing it could go either way, thinking, ‘How am I going to lead my community, people who have put in their hearts and souls?’ I was standing with friends who had literally knocked on a couple thousand doors, trying to prepare myself: If we lose, how am I going to help us keep going? What’s my role then? I felt the weight of this moment of public leadership.

My partner and I were married in Toronto last June. It was such an exquisite moment, being surrounded by our friends and family and people we’ve loved all of our lives. So this was deeply personal. And when Michael and I — my partner’s name is Michael as well — when we go home tonight what are we going to tell our two young children? I was preparing myself emotionally for how we were going to tell them we lost.

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Our people, our Jewish people, have a history. We’ve been knocked down before and we allow ourselves one day to cry and then we get back up and we get off our tushies and we keep working for justice because that’s what we do. That’s our bargain. That’s what I believe we were put on this earth for, to make the world a better place, and that is not easy. We rest our heads on the hard pillow of moral leadership.

We were the first community of faith in the state to organize against the amendment. We had our first meeting in June of 2011. Over 90 people came, and about a third of them weren’t even affiliated with Shir Tikvah. The majority were straight. For me, seeing how many people of faith were showing up and understanding that we would not cede one inch of ground on this issue, that we have equally as compelling, if not more compelling, moral clarity — at that moment I knew something was different.

For the first couple of hours the returns weren’t coming back quickly, and then around 10 o’clock they called it for President Obama. Not everyone there was Democrat — that’s one of the things I loved about the campaign — but I loved that moment. Right around midnight results from all of these rural counties came in, in one fell swoop. I looked around and saw panic in people’s faces as it went from a four- or five-point lead to only a couple thousand votes. But then within 10 minutes we realized that there was a huge part of Hennepin County that hadn’t been counted.

Minnesota Moments 2012The local CBS news affiliate called “vote no” for us at 1:20 or 1:25 maybe, or 1:30. I am fairly certain that that was when I burst into pretty powerful tears for the next, I don’t know, hour or so. It was just beautiful and holy and remarkable and powerful. That Margaret Mead woman was right: Never doubt what a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can actually do together.

I remember thinking, as I was holding my beloved’s hand, I get to go home and wake my kids up and tell them we won. I get to wake up my kids and tell them all their hard work and their sign-making and their schlepping around with us as we door-knocked and went to fundraisers and marched in parades — it wasn’t all gay-pride parades, we marched in some places where people weren’t always so nice to us and my kids saw that — I get to wake them up and tell them that we did it. We did it.

Friday: “Electronic pull-tabs for Vikings stadium funding: ‘People seem to be enjoying them’ “