Marriage amendment no voters say don’t place limits on lovePublished 11:12am Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Question: Should the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?
There’s been a lot of debate about the wording of the proposed marriage amendment, but Joey Miller knows what the words mean to him.
“It’ll say that I can’t get married to the person that I love based on my preferences and gender,” he said.
Miller, an openly gay Austin resident and former mayor candidate, is working to defeat the amendment. He has helped Minnesotans United for All Families at its Rochester office since late July, making calls and fielding questions for those who stop by.
“I see it as a very hurtful amendment for same-sex couples,” he said.
Miller’s work with MN United is part of the efforts of roughly 700 organizations that hope to convince Minnesotans to vote no. MN United Press Secretary Kate Brickman said the issue centers on people’s rights.
“We see it as a limitation on a basic freedom for a lot of Minnesotans,” she said.
Marriage centers on love, commitment and responsibility, Brickman said, and gay and lesbian Minnesotans want to embrace that just as straight Minnesotans would.
“You think about some of those values that we’ve learned about treating others the way you want to be treated,” she said.
Brinkman claims that Minnesotans are 67 percent more likely to vote no after a single conversation. MN United’s approach has been to spark that conversation.
“We know that when people see a TV ad, they might ask the person next to them, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’” Brickman said.
Advertisements are just the latest in a string of advocacy efforts for the group, which has been using phone banking and initiating talks since May 2011. It has about a dozen offices, plus 50 “action centers,” — smaller, makeshift offices in churches or community centers.
“When we talk to Minnesotans, they come to the realizations that voting no is the right thing to do,” Brickman said.
One of the biggest groups involved is communities of faith, Brickman said. About 600 religious leaders around the state from every denomination are working with MN United. Even some Catholic priests are working behind the scenes to support the effort.
“The government shouldn’t tell churches who they can and can’t marry,” she said, adding if voters shoot down the amendment and gay marriage was eventually legalized, individual churches could choose who can and can’t marry there.
“Our constitution isn’t for putting in religious purposes,” he said. “It’s for the rights of the people.”
Miller pointed to anti-amendment advocates like former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and Vikings punter Chris Kluwe as leaders.
“It just shows that it isn’t a gay or straight issue,” he said. “It’s a Minnesotan issue about whether we should accept people for who they are.”
Brickman agreed, saying the demographics spanned “just about every facet of Minnesota life,” and didn’t fall along party lines. The organization’s board of directors comprises sitting Republicans, business leaders, union workers and progressives.
Gays and lesbians are not the only ones who would be hurt by the amendment, Miller said. Straight parents would have to explain to their children why a whole group of people cannot marry, which could affect the way a child views gay people.
At its most recent filing in late September, MN United had raised $7.3 million. Brickman said 50,000 individuals have contributed, and 93 percent are from Minnesota. The rest come from those with a strong connection to the state, and are either former Minnesota residents or those with family members here.
Voting against the marriage amendment would not legalize gay marriage, Brickman stressed. But it would stop the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman from being cemented in the state’s constitution, a change that would be difficult to undo.
“It allows us to keep the conversation going,” she said.