“I don’t have a penis so I can’t marry my Venus.” This was one of the more amusing signs protesting the Minnesota legislators’ move toward putting a constitutional amendment on the Fall 2012 ballot that would ban same-sex marriage.
The people who opposed doing this—including Republicans—did not go down quietly. Republican Rep. John Kriesel, a decorated Iraq veteran who has lost both legs, said, “This amendment doesn’t represent what I went to fight for.” In his speech on the floor of the House, Kriesel held up a photo of a gay soldier who died in Iraq on February 27. “I cannot . . . say ‘You know what, corporal, you were good enough to fight for your country and give your life, but you were not good enough to marry the person you love.’” Kriesel is a person who understands love: “I love my wife more than anything. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. She makes me happy. I could not ever live with myself to vote to take that away from someone else,” he said.
As always when same-sex marriage is argued, people used religion to oppose it while others rebutted their arguments. Rep. Steve Simon eloquently addressed religion: “How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?” Rabbi Moshe Feller of St. Paul supported Simon’s position when he said, “It’s not simply a religious tradition, but also a human tradition.” University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter said, “As a matter of law and as a matter of public policy, this proposed amendment will not help one single family in Minnesota, but it will hurt many families.”
Their pain obvious, Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt, parents of the slain corporal Andrew Wilfahrt, tried to persuade the stoic Republicans that they were doing the wrong thing by voting yes on the amendment. This spring, after Mr. Wilfhart testified before the Minnesota State Senate, he said, “It was pretty obvious watching most of the Republican members of that [Senate] committee fiddle with papers and otherwise be distracted that they were not listening. When I came to the House, I decided that there was no point in making an appeal directly to these people because their minds were set up. They’re in lockstep. Most of them are freshman class, far right. They don’t want to hear the arguments.” He was talking to them about the death of his son.
It’s going to be a very nasty fight. The Minnesota Family Council’s website posted material linking homosexuality with bestiality and “other deviant behaviors,” including pedophilia. (I won’t mention the others accusations that are possibly even more disgusting to some people.) After the Family Council’s president Tom Prichard said that he hoped for a “respectful debate,” the material was removed. Perhaps someone defined “respectful” for him.
Minnesota for Marriage, a joint venture of Catholic and evangelical churches, is leading the same-sex marriage naysayers into the fray. Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, said they’d try to mount “the largest and most intensive grassroots political campaign the state has ever seen.” (“Grassroots” these days means lots of outside money.)
Those opposed to same-sex marriage may lack the support they think they have. Rep. Rod Hamilton claimed he wanted to giving voters the ultimate say. (I guess the voters didn’t have a say when the original Minnesota“defense of marriage” law was passed in 1997.) Hamilton reported that his daughter told him that she would turn 18 before November 2012 and would vote against the amendment. She told him, “Dad, I think a person should be able to marry whomever they love whether it’s the opposite sex or not.”
November 2012 is a long way away. Although Kathryn Cuhlmann, a 20-year-old massage therapist, might believe now that marriage is only for opposite-sex couples because of her interpretation of the bible, she also found out that her closest friend, who recently died, was a lesbian. Cuhlmann said her views might be evolving.
On the “support same-sex marriage” side, Project 515, which advocates for same-sex couples inMinnesota, and Out Front Minnesota are the lead organizations in the coalition Minnesotans United for All Families. The national LGBT civil-rights group Human Rights Campaign will also work with Minnesotans United to defeat the amendment.
Monica Meyer, executive director of Out Front Minnesota, said, “We’ve got this $6 billion deficit here, and leadership says they want to work to improve the economy, and this is the only issue they get done,” she said. “It’s a sad statement for our state.”
Sen. David Hann tried to answer the question of how a political party that fights for small government insists on supporting a huge number of laws intended to control people. If you want limited government, Hann explained, you need “moral virtue” and “discipline” and other verities that “reinforce the idea of individuals being accountable.” Evidently his argument is that small government requires very large government to create small government. I’ll have to work on that one to figure it out.
The House proceedings took on an almost carnival (carnival noir?) atmosphere on the night of the vote when Pastor Bradlee Dean gave the prayer for the day. Well-known for his approval of the death penalty for gays, Dean did not reference same-sex marriage in his prayer. He did, however, state that President Obama is not a Christian, requiring the House Speaker to apologize. Since then Salem Communications has dropped Dean’s “Sons of Liberty” radio show, and Wal-Mart has told Dean that his ministry, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, can no longer fundraise in itsMinnesotaparking lots. One step at a time.
The amendment has a good chance of failing. Despite the Minnesota conservative’s poll, run by a Mormon, citing that 57 percent of the state’s voters are opposed to same-sex marriage, Gallup says differently. A majority of people in the United States now support same-sex marriage, a percentage that grows each year. And there are 18 months until the vote.