[Content Note: Heterocentrism; privilege.]
On Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Minnesotans made history. Ours is the first state to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment aimed at defining marriage as "solely between one man and one woman." Thirty states have implemented similar bans, and we stopped the trend. Much of that was because of factors I described a couple of weeks ago (and one I didn't: we had a full 18 months to campaign against it—truly a luxury of time compared to the more typical 4-6 months), but I think we couldn't have done it without a massive coalition known as Minnesotans United for All Families. In the last seven days before the election, Minnesotans United for All Families made 900,000 phone calls, knocked on 400,000 doors, and had 27,000 volunteers working to defeat the amendment.
The Captain and I had the opportunity in the weeks preceding the election to participate in the "Vote NO" effort as volunteers (in addition to the seemingly endless requests we made via email, Facebook, and letters). We made phone calls, knocked on doors, and we even distributed literature on the eve of Election Day in our little town of 5,000 people. It was all very exhilarating, frightening, and draining. After those emotional days (I cried almost every night on my way home from phone-banking, and sometimes on the way in), to have stopped that hurtful amendment in its tracks…well, it was overwhelming. Even today—a week and SEVERAL viewings later—I cannot watch the video of the "moment of victory" without tearing up.
[Video Description: The video should begin at 2:33. Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom of Minnesotans United for All Families is speaking to campaign staff and board members at 1:45am, just before they have to vacate the room for the night, thanking them for their hard work and telling them the vote is still too close to call. Just as he's wrapping up and sending everyone home to get some sleep, he is interrupted by the campaign's communications director Kelly Schwinghammer, who tells him that the AP has called it in favor of equality. He lifts his arms in the air and shouts joyously, and the room erupts into a celebration of cheers and hugs.]
I'm so very proud that we made our small contributions to a truly staggering community effort put forth by lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans* folks, college kids, people of faith, people of color, coworkers, teens, veterans, widows, PFLAG parents, siblings, union members, business owners, physicians, Democrats, Republicans, and so many others. It was a broad coalition working together on behalf of equality.
In our local office, there was even a man from Utah who told me that he knew his state was nowhere near being able to have marriage equality, so he took vacation time, flew to Minnesota and volunteered with our efforts for a couple weeks. He alone made thousands of phone calls on our behalf. More than a couple times, I was the only self-identified gay person in my volunteer group, and I was almost always in the minority. So many of my fellow volunteers expressed that they were volunteering because even though they didn't identify as LGBT, they knew that this amendment was hurtful and they had to stand up against it. That kind of support and love was immensely humbling.
And all that effort worked. For the first time EVER, a state constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality (seriously, WTF? How can we still be putting up with this?) was defeated, and defeated soundly. (In Minnesota, a non-vote on a constitutional amendment counts as a "no," and we were planning on that to give us an edge. As it turns out, we had 52% of the vote, and didn't even need the 1% of non-votes!) And it was defeated not by focusing on how mean our opponents were (and they were truly mean, manipulative, and dishonest), but by talking about the importance of love. Love prevailed.
The day after the election, I received an email from our friend Rob, who lives with his partner in Boston, and he shared this anecdote (which I share here with his permission):
"Yesterday when [my husband] and I got a call telling us his family sat down together and they all discussed how and why they needed to vote no, I felt a great amount happiness to be part of an amazing family."This. So this. In Minnesota, people have been having conversations about what marriage means to them and others. These are conversations about shared values of love, commitment, and of belonging. These are conversations about how respecting individuals cannot exclude full participation, and how valuing your friends and family members means welcoming them into all the traditions they wish to enjoy. If we are to be valued, we must not be excluded. And these conversations aren't always easy—or even possible—but they were absolutely the key to this remarkable victory.
Now, I wouldn't say we really had a total "win," because we also learned how hurtful some of our families and neighbors are willing to be. And we don't yet have marriage equality in Minnesota. (I joked with my fellow volunteers that we sure were working hard to protect rights we don't have.) But we stood our ground, and we helped thousands upon thousands of people realize that it was our lives, our futures, our hopes at stake.
So please join me in thanking and honoring the many people who worked so hard to stop Minnesota's anti-marriage-equality amendment and preserve our hope for the future. Today Minnesota, my home, has embraced me. It is so wonderful.
(Also, HUGE congratulations to Maine, Maryland, and Washington for their successful passage of marriage equality. I have friends in each of those states, and I'm so happy for them! Yay!)