Love. Home. Family. Equality. Three of those four words represent what it means to be a family in Minnesota. We fall in love. We live in a home together. We are a family. But we are not all equal.
I married my high school sweetheart. We got married when we were 22, bought a home when we were 25, started our family when were 26, and are now working, enjoying life, and planning for the future. After 18 years of marriage, we have established our own family traditions, we have acquired a lot of stuff, we are paying our mortgage and have a fair amount of equity in our house, less and less each year recently, but equity none-the-less, we are building a retirement portfolio, and we rely on each other for practically everything we do, and my wife is my best friend.
How different is that story from any other family in Minnesota? Some of the details may be different, but the basic story is the same. It doesn’t matter if the couples are Doug and Nancy or Steve and Andrea, or Jeff and Jason or Michelle and Connie. We are in love and we are building a home and growing as a family. Why should there be legal limitations on a family based on the person they love? Why should one couple face legal restrictions when it comes to healthcare decisions, estate planning, parenting rights, and even separation rights, when other couples don’t?
If I died tomorrow, my wife would still have our house, both of our cars that happen to be in my name, my retirement fund, our bank accounts, my tools, my baseball gloves, my Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew baseball cards, my books, my warm socks she sometimes wears in the winter and my priceless comforter, that my wife made for me when I went away to college, that has kept me warm for more than 20 years. She would still possess all those things and have rights to those things because we are married. There is no need to spend the time and money to have a lawyer prepare documents that protect her property rights from my family.
Unlike heterosexual couples that choose not to marry and risk those outcomes, a gay couple that wants to marry has no option. In many instances families recognize the couple and respect their relationship, but even good families can act strangely and unpredictably when confronted with death. Anger, grief, even individual economic or personal circumstances may cause family members to be irrational, opportunistic, ambivalent and even hostile toward partners.
I really believe this a basic human rights issue. I think every couple deserves the same rights. I think the idea of love, family and home should have equality added on to it. I also believe this Marriage Amendment is happening at a momentous point in history. I believe we are less than a generation away from hitting a point in time when people value the relationship itself more than whether it is a conventional relationship. I think we see it in some of our younger Republican leaders who see this as a matter of being happy and enjoying the freedoms our soldiers fought and died for rather than a biased belief based in religion or habit. It is already happening, we are on the cusp. Half of Americans believe the federal government should recognize marriages among same-sex couples.
It is simply and purely common sense. All couples, including gay and lesbian couple should have the same right to make a lifelong commitment to love and protect each other. All couples should be given the tools and protections to protect their families, and the homes they have built together. And all couples who are committed enough to make a life-long personal commitment to one another, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, deserve the cultural respect, social support, and legal protections that come with marriage.
That’s why I will be voting “NO” on the 2012 Minnesota Marriage Amendment that will ask Minnesotans to vote yes or no on the question: “Shall 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 is no reason that a slick campaign, an influx of advertising money, buzz phrases and smart wording should be the deciding factor on this amendment. It is up to you and me to make sure people know what the impact is. Tell your family it is wrong to vote yes for this amendment. It doesn’t matter whether somebody disapproves of marriage between same-sex couples. What matters is that we don’t have a right to decide how others live or what they do privately in with their lives and in their homes, when it is legal and they are of no harm to us, to their families, or to the rest of society.
Everybody deserves equality. Without equal rights, we are not free. All couples who wish to be married, should be married. Love. Home. Family. Equality.