Marriage and the anti-gay crusaders

There are more important issues in Minnesota for legislators than banning gay marriage

In 1971 national attention and outrage ensued when a clerk in Blue Earth County issued a marriage license to two Minnesotans. The controversy of this marriage was surrounding the names on the certificate: Jack Baker and Mike McConnell.

It was Minnesota’s, as well as the nation’s, first legally recognized marriage between two people of the same sex.

The Minnesota Supreme Court later that year ruled the union unconstitutional, proclaiming that the “institution of marriage as a union of a man and woman, uniquely involving the procreating and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis.” Thus the gay marriage debate in Minnesota was ended, as brief as it was. So why are there so many clamoring for an amendment to ban same-sex marriages when the state’s highest court already has ruled on it? Perhaps they are driven by hate. The proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman is simply legislated gay-bashing in disguise. GLBT-identified persons have made great strides with respect to obtaining protection against discrimination and being comfortable publically with their sexual orientation or gender identification.

GLBT Minnesotans, however, have not always had it so easy. When Fight Repression of Erotic Expression was founded as the first student group in the country for gay and lesbian students at the University in 1969, most of its members remained anonymous for fear of being attacked, or even more simply, being “outed” in an unforgiving and illiberal society.

Now that Minnesota has protections for those in the GLBT community, many anti-gay crusaders feel the need to reaffirm they still believe the queer community is sinful and an abomination in their eyes. The proposed anti-same-sex marriage amendment is simply an attempt to further oppress a group that has been traditionally discriminated against. Or perhaps they are driven by fear. Anti-gay crusaders consistently use the argument that this amendment will prevent the destruction of the traditional family. The legalization of gay marriage, they argue, will open a Pandora’s box of possibilities and will ultimately lead to the obliteration of the traditional nuclear family unit.

The idea that the family will be destroyed is absurd at best. If gay marriage were legalized, straight marriages would certainly not cease to exist. The majority of society is attracted to people of the opposite sex, and, consequentially, the majority of marriages would be those between two people of the opposite sex. In other words, people would not flock to get gay marriages.

The problems marriage faces will not go away. Divorces will continue to occur at the rate at which they are happening.

There also still will be single-parent families and families with widows or widowers. There will continue to be families with stepparents, stepsiblings and adopted or foster children. There will continue to be gay children raised by a straight couple and straight children raised by a gay couple.

Are any of these families subpar or inferior to the traditional family unit of one man and one woman? Absolutely not. Of course, there are many in today’s society who would say yes, which is stark reminder of how sad the state of affairs in America is.

Perhaps it is a tactic to turn voters’ minds away from more pertinent issues. Transportation in the Twin Cities, for example, is horrendous. Forget all mention of light rail, commuter rail or bikeways. Has anyone seen Highway 280 through Lauderdale? Or the junction of Interstate 35W and Interstate 94 in the famed “Spaghetti Junction” during any given rush hour? Or Interstate 394 and its ill-used carpool lanes? The list of transport nightmares goes on and on.

What about those in Minnesota who can’t afford health care? Or the rise of methamphetamine use in Anoka and Sherburne counties, which is causing a huge spike in violent crimes in those areas? Or the proposed Vikings and Twins stadiums that – after nearly 10 years – still have not been settled? The Legislature could be focusing on how to repair concrete and helping the poor rather than debating proposed amendments for an issue that – I will once again repeat – already has been settled by the Minnesota courts.

For the record, I believe in the legalization of gay marriage. The union of two loving persons should be recognized by the state, no matter their gender or sexual preference. However, I recognize this can be done only through legislation, or through the overturning of the 1971 Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision on a federal level.

If one fears gay marriage will become a reality someday, this amendment will do nothing to prevent it. A legislature that would legalize such a thing would be one that was elected by a populace that favors the expansion of marriage to include same-sex couples (and thus would vote to overturn any already-existing amendment). In other words, the proposed anti-same-sex marriage amendment is a form of public gay bashing, and it is an utter waste of time for all Minnesotans.

Mike Grewe is the co-chairperson of the Queer Student Cultural Center. Please send comments to [email protected]