You’re invited to fight a marriage ban

by Emma Carew

Jen Mohnkern and Mike Grewe have been planning for months. They’ve chosen decorations, ordered food and sent more than 250 fancy white wedding invitations.

But Mohnkern and Grewe aren’t getting married.

As co-chairs of the Queer Student Cultural Center, they are helping to plan Sunday’s Freedom to Marry celebration.

The event will give students and community members a chance to celebrate, dance and eat wedding cake while making connections and finding ways to get involved in the fight against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Mohnkern said.

National Freedom to Marry Day is not only a day for action, but also a day for celebration, said Owen Marciano, assistant director of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Programs office.

“It’s a day for GLBT people to celebrate their relationships as good and healthy relationships and it also has an activist side to it,” he said. “Although the GLBT community has come a long way, we still have a long way to go.”

University Queer Men, Queer Women, Co-Rise and the Queer Graduate and Professional Association are hosting a wedding reception-themed event Sunday in Coffman Union Great Hall, Grewe said.

“We’re basically protesting an amendment that would ban gay marriage in Minnesota,” he said. “We feel that is writing discrimination into the constitution.”

The day is going to be of political importance, Grewe said, because a constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to one man and one woman is likely to be on the ballot in November.

“It’s very important to highlight the issue now, and be on the offensive,” he said.

GLBT and GLBT-allied organizations from around the Twin Cities, such as OutFront Minnesota, Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays ” Twin Cities and The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation have committed to having a table at the event, Grewe said.

GLAAD approached the QSCC when it first learned of the event, he said, and offered to give a media training session.

“This is also about family values,” Grewe said. “We don’t believe hate is a family value. We don’t think fear or ignorance is a family value.”

Mohnkern said this is the first year the event will be this large.

“We wanted to have an event that would draw the campus, the community and organizations together and get everybody talking,” Mohnkern said. “The idea behind it is, I’m not coming to your revolution if I can’t dance. Not everyone wants to be an activist, but everyone wants to have a good time.”

“It is not even specifically about GLBT people having the right to marry,” Mohnkern said. “It’s about no one deserves to have outright discrimination against them in a constitution. There is no family in Minnesota that deserves that.”

Keynote speakers for the event include Beth Zemsky, adjunct faculty in the GLBT studies department and former co-chair of the Board of Directors for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Monica Meyer from OutFront Minnesota.

Meyer will discuss the logistics of the possibility of the

constitutional amendment; where it’s been in the past, where it’s coming from and how that’s all changed, Mohnkern said.

Zemsky will be discussing the current situation for GLBT partners in Minnesota and comparing it with situations in other states that have faced constitutional amendments.

A legislative statute exists to ban same-sex marriage, she said.

State and municipal employees are not offered domestic partner benefits, but more than 200 corporations and nonprofit organizations in Minnesota do offer them, Zemsky said.

In other states where constitutional amendments have gone to the ballot, there has been a lot of light shed on the GLBT community, often negative, she said.

Hate crime rates in those areas also have increased, Zemsky said.

But the GLBT community is becoming active earlier, Mohnkern said.

“We know what our plan of action is for multiple outcomes,” Mohnkern said.

Mohnkern has been surprised throughout the year by the number of allied students appearing at QSCC-sponsored events, such as National Coming Out Week and World AIDS Day, Mohnkern said.

“The amount of allies we have on campus is astounding,” Mohnkern said. “I think we need to respect and acknowledge that.”

Marciano said this is an especially important fight for allies to join.

“The GLBT community needs as many allies and supporters as possible to win this fight,” he said.

QSCC Special Events Coordinator Tim Connolly said he thinks this event is important “to get awareness out to people, whether you’re GLBTQ-identified or not.”

He also said the event will get more exposure for the GLBT community.

“I think there are still people out there who are like, “I don’t know people who are gay,’ ” he said. “I think the more that we’re out there, the more maybe people will understand that we’re just like them.”