The politics of legalizing equal marriage


Yesterday, I wrote that the DFL should legalize same-sex marriage. Some folks seem to think that would be a political catastrophe for the party. I suspect that while many DFLers support marriage equality on principle, they also wonder: Is it the right thing to do politically? I believe it is.

Before I even get to that, though, what if it weren’t the right thing to do politically? DFLers, if you had to risk your majority in the House to make equal marriage a reality, wouldn’t it be worth it? Such a major move forward on civil rights would be worth the sacrifice. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that failing to take that step forward when when we have the opportunity — and asking the LGBT community to wait for the rights they deserve until it’s politically convenient — would be immoral.

But it doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. In fact, voting for your principles and proudly defending that vote is how you gain voters’ respect — and more importantly, how you shift the debate on an issue. If we legalize equal marriage immediately, we can have nearly two years in which to show Minnesotans that the sky hasn’t fallen, and that recognizing love in all its forms doesn’t hurt anyone. That’s also two years for DFLers to explain to Minnesotans why they’re proud of their historic vote for equality.

That’s the key — DFLers need to stand by their vote and take pride in their convictions. The problem Democrats always have, no matter the issue, is that we accept the right’s framing of the issue and apologize for our own beliefs. All too often, Democrats publicly distance themselves from their own records, and even from their most basic principles. No wonder the public often reacts poorly!

Well, it’s time to stop apologizing for our belief in equal rights. Not only is it nothing to be ashamed of, it’s something to celebrate. And it the DFL does celebrate it, instead of running from it, the public will see that too.

With majorities in both houses and Mark Dayton in the Governor’s office, the upcoming legislative session will be a time for bold action by the DFL. What better way to start than by extending the right to marry to all Minnesotans? Equal marriage is the civil rights issue of our time, and a vote to give all Minnesotans the freedom to marry is one any that should give any legislator enormous pride.