Marriage equality is a rural issue!

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Marriage Equality, the right of gay folks to marry just like everybody else, is a big city issue… Right?

Wrong! Out here on the Buffalo Ridge where a town of a thousand is considered big, marriage equality is hot news. First we get a Survey USA poll in Minnesota on marriage equality that broke out the results by regions… That poll showed that support for marriage equality in the western Minnesota region that includes the Buffalo Ridge is about the same as in the supposedly more enlightened “cities” metro area. Then, just across the border in South Dakota the younger and until then favored Democratic candidate to take back Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin’s Congressional seat announces he doesn’t support marriage equality. His Democratic primary opponent, older and we thought stodgier Sioux Falls County Commissioner Jeff Barth, publicly announced his support for marriage equality. His progressive stance was rewarded by a shift of support from the previously “inevitable” endorsee, including a major GLBT donor and supporter. Then Minnesota 7th District Congressman Colin Peterson, after promising that he’d not oppose marriage equality, voted for a Republican measure opposing marriage equality. Suddenly the issue of marriage equality has awoken what looked to be a sleepy campaign season here on the Buffalo Ridge.

No surprise… Marriage is still for most of us the only economicly viable way of obtaining health insurance coverage for our families. And out here in farm country health insurance is a major farm issue, right up there with crop prices and the weather. Not hard to see why- Farmers as self employed folks have zilch bargaining power with insurers and get stuck with outragous rates. So farm families have had to use “workarounds” to get insurance- taking a family member off the farm to work a “town job” to get insurance coverage for the family, or not expanding the farm to stay eligible for Minnesota Care. No wonder many farm groups are strong supporters of health care for all- when farmers have to leave the farm to get health insurance, farming dies and rural life with it.

But if your family is a same sex couple that’s banned by law from marrying in most states or an opposite sex couple that for other reasons just plain can’t get married, you’re screwed. Say you’re lesbian farmers in a decades long committed relationship raising adopted special needs children with critical medical needs. Sure, one of you can get a “town job”, but because you can’t get married in Minnesota or the Dakotas your employer provided coverage probably won’t extend to your partner and maybe not your children either. So you give up farming, move to the city, and we lose more farmers. More farmers we need to replace our aging farmers (average ago around 60) who can’t retire because there’s no young farmers to take their place them and keep feeding the world.

So Congressman Peterson, you and your Republican buds blew it. Yup, you have helped “insure” that future GLBT farmers will leave the farm and head for the cities, and take their education, skills, and buying power with them.