Next year, Minnesotans will vote on an amendment attempting to define marriage as a union solely between one man and one woman. A “yes” vote will ingrain into the state’s Constitution the belief that gay marriage should be forever outlawed. And while a “no” vote will not bring about marriage equality, it will hold the current line.
This is part 3 of a three part series on gay men and women living in Northern Minnesota.
In part 2 of the series, we looked at the efforts of gay men and women to fit into the larger Northern Minnesotan community. Here in part 3, they discuss their thoughts, opinions, and feelings on the upcoming marriage amendment.
An Anti-marriage Marriage Amendment
“This amendment makes me feel unequal, like an outsider for no reason,” says Ariel, 22 of Hibbing. “In the gay community, we don’t want to take away straight people’s rights; we just want to have equal rights for everyone.” In fact, all of the gay individuals interviewed diametrically oppose the amendment. Chris, 25 of Virginia relates, “I think it’s very hateful. It doesn’t change anything-all it does is put the current law ‘in the books.'”
However, others in Northern Minnesota see gay marriage as an affront on their religious beliefs. Bobbie Fleming of Hibbing, a member of the First Assembly of God evangelical church, says she would vote “yes” on the upcoming amendment. Fleming believes, “that the Bible is truth, and that it says homosexuality is a sin, so even though I love the gay person, I don’t love his or her sin.” She also says that she thinks being gay is a choice, but she insists she would happily be friends with gay citizens in her hometown.
Fleming readily admits though that some Christians are far less tolerant. “Christians can have very wrong mindsets and can be very judgmental, very hurtful, and very angry about things because they think they’re better than another person. Unfortunately, some people really don’t want to talk to gays or be around gays or be friends with gays, and that’s not right.”
Chris, on other hand, disagrees with the notion that religious doctrine should play a role in deciding how our nation governs. He argues, “It makes no sense to say this issue is about sin. Sin is an ideology taken from a book that should have no merit in determining our laws and civil liberties. We have separation of church and state for a reason…If this amendment passes, it will affect me personally. It will make me feel that I am a second-class citizen to the heterosexual community.”
In the political realm, one of the amendment’s Northern supporters is State Representative Carolyn McElfatrick (R) of the Grand Rapids area. Andy Mundt, 29 of Grand Rapids, recalls an exchange he had with the Representative, “McElfatrick told me that she is pro-family and I said ‘so am I.’ She said she’s for traditional marriage, and I said that I am as well…I just think that people of all sexual orientations should be able to engage in the process.”
I sent Representative McElfatrick an email requesting a statement, but she declined to comment citing political overload. Her campaign manager, however, did take the time to write to me an email saying, “The whole question of special privileges [emphasis mine] for homosexuals has been pretty well chewed over and now awaits the decision of the state’s voters. The interview would just be a superfluous and unnecessary expenditure of time…and one I don’t think she can afford”
I asked Alyssa, 22 of Hibbing, how it felt to have someone describe gay marriage as a ‘special privilege’ for homosexuals. “I’m just confused. How could you possibly think that? I don’t understand how gay marriage could be a special privilege when there are over 515 laws in Minnesota that already make it unequal for the LGBT community.”
“It’s disgusting,” says Mundt, “if this amendment passes, we’re really going to have to reconsider the concept of ‘Minnesota nice.'”
Representative Carly Melin (D) of Hibbing/Chisholm was able to take some time out of her busy schedule to explain her opposition to the measure, “If the definition of marriage amendment passes in 2012, it will be the first time in Minnesota history that our Constitution restricts rights rather than protects them. The Constitution is designed and intended to protect citizens’ rights and freedoms from an intrusive Government. An amendment that declares that some Minnesotans are less free and less equal than other Minnesotans has no place in our Constitution.
“Some would argue that it’s only right that the people decide the definition of marriage. However, in the land of the free, we must be very careful to put the rights of the minority into the hands of the majority. This tactic has led to discrimination in the past. For example, a woman’s right to vote failed more than once at the hands of Minnesota voters. Let us not repeat that dark place in Minnesota history.”
With the amendment on next year’s ballot, gay issues have been thrust into the spotlight. For some, this seems rather strange. Jacob Woods, 20 of Chisholm, laughs and says, “Being gay really feels like a double identity. It’s like ‘you’re gay and you’re from Northern Minnesota.'” Ariel agrees, “It would be nice if people stopped worrying so much about labels-straight, gay, bisexual. It’s not about being gay or straight, it’s about liking who you like. You like someone for the person that they are…if only people could see that, it would make life so much easier.”
Woods sums up the whole situation best, “While I feel that interviews like this one are necessary right now, I hope that in the future they aren’t.”