by Shaker GoldFishy, our regular correspondent from Minnesota.
Here in Minnesota, we defeated an anti-marriage-equality amendment to our state constitution in November. We were the first state to do so. The campaign to win that election hinged on personal conversations between Minnesotans, and, in the final days of the campaign, thousands of volunteers made phone calls, knocked on doors, and wrote letters pleading with our friends, families and neighbors to vote no. We made an impact because we made it personal. It was a huge rush, for sure – and we celebrated a clear victory.
(I just have to encourage you to visit the above link and watch that moment of victory by Richard Carlbom, Minnesotans United's Campaign Manager. Oh, the JOY.)
Unfortunately, our "victory" didn't actually win us marriage equality, but rather it just kept us from having a permanent ban on same-sex marriage. Since that time, our opponents have warned not to read the defeat of the amendment as a sign that our state is ready for same-sex marriage. "Don't overreach," they say. I've seen threats of political retaliation against any legislator who supports marriage equality. We've had multiple bills for civil unions, including one that would convert all existing marriages to civil unions.
Even so, Minnesotans United for All Families shifted gears the day after the election. The message changed from "Vote No" to "Vote Yes" overnight. The phone calls, the conversations, and the personal stories have continued. In these intervening months, a steady campaign for marriage equality in Minnesota has led to bills in the state House and Senate, each of which have cleared all committees.
On Tuesday of this week, the Speaker of the Minnesota House announced that he was confident that the marriage equality bill had the votes they needed to pass, and it would reach the House floor for a full vote on Thursday, May 9. If the bill passes as they seem to anticipate, the corresponding Senate bill will have a vote on Saturday, where support for it there is said to be slightly stronger. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is a vocal advocate for marriage equality and has repeatedly requested a bill for him to sign this session.
I recently had dinner with a friend who previously lived in Minnesota and now resides in upstate New York. He was living in New York the day marriage equality took effect there, and he talked about how when he woke up that morning – even though he didn't have immediate plans to be married – he felt different. He told of feeling like he belonged there now.
I'm trying not to put our cart before our horse here in Minnesota. State leaders feel they have the votes, but the vote hasn't happened yet, and there is an enormous amount of pressure being put on these legislators from all directions right now. Many state Democrats are hesitant to support marriage equality (though there have been a few announcements of support in recent weeks, which has been very encouraging).
I'll save my cynical rants about my frustration with anyone elected to lead who can't – or won't – see the gross injustice we endure without marriage equality, especially when they are clearly making excuses for not voting the way their conscience tells them they should. And I'll not even give more than this one sentence on my contempt for those who repeatedly speak out against marriage equality. And I'll only acknowledge in passing how awful it is that we have to fight this fight, and that we find ourselves feeling happy and grateful when we get support from our fellow citizens and leaders. Not cool.
Instead, I'll focus on what is possible. It's possible that very soon, I could be legally married to the man I love and have been with for over ten years. It's possible that my state might welcome us, might value us, might actually celebrate us. It's possible that I might truly belong in the state in which I've lived my whole life. It's possible that we could be equal – not just in our hearts, but in law.
It's not over yet, and I'm nervous. It would only take a few miscalculated votes for this to fail. But the possibilities…they give me great hope.
If you live in Minnesota, I encourage you to contact your legislator TODAY. Visit Minnesotans United for a very easy and quick contact form that will enable a direct message to your legislators in as little as a few minutes. Thanks so much.