May Day! May Day! Voting ‘no’ will not change the law that bans gay marriage

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I had a welcome breath of fresh air about the Minnesota Marriage Amendment in the fresh air in Cottage Grove Sunday evening.

The Minnesota Council of Churches sponsored the “Respectful Dialogues” gathering at the United Church of Christ, about a half-hour southeast of Minneapolis near the Mississippi River (well, more like rural Cottage Grove).

If you get a chance to participate in an event like that–we were apparently the guinea pigs as the Council irons out the format–do attend. Know that, after a short welcome and video, it’s all group discussion, and you will be heard.

The format is prescriptive: Three discussion questions, no interrupting, no long speeches, and no ranting (yea!). The idea is to hear one another, as in, “So it sounds like you’re saying,” and ask questions, as in, “Can you explain a little better what you mean by such-and-such?” as opposed to, “What kind of knucklehead are you!” and “You’re wrong and a bigot and you make me want to stab myself in the eye with a barbeque fork.”

Anyway. I’ve been up to my nostrils in the Marriage Amendment since last May, and especially since last November. So it was good to hear other voices, and especially to learn how much people plain didn’t know about the amendment–for example, that

  • same-sex marriage is illegal in Minnesota;
  • voting Yes means you are in favor of changing the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage;
  • voting No means you are opposed to changing the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage;
  • not voting, as in leaving the ballot question blank, counts as a No; and
  • voting No is not a vote to legalize same-sex marriage.

(Wow, that last one really threw me.)

For the record, three folks at my table were strongly supportive of the amendment (’cause the Bible tells them so), two were undecided, someone else (I think) opposed it, two were facilitators and never showed their cards. Oh, and I was the oddball liberal from Minneapolis who asked a lot of questions and who never said anything about a pretty good blog he’s been posting for six months.

I’m planning to write more elsewhere as I digest the evening’s discussion. I did leave with some real hope that some Minnesotans are genuinely unsure how they’ll vote, and they’re looking to have a respectful dialogue about the topic.