2012 issues: Marriage Amendment

I flat out do not understand the arguments about gay marriage and about the marriage amendment. So, instead of answering them one by one, I’m going to share parts of four of the stories of same-sex Minnesota couples that are on the Minnesotans United for All Families website. (If you are interested in the arguments, scroll down past the stories for links to information.)

The stories:

The Peterson family

In 2005, I met my partner, Sheila, and in September this year, we will welcome a boy and a girl — our very own set of Minnesota Twins — to the world.

We know we are lucky to have children, but it comes at a significant cost, simply because we cannot marry each other. Unlike a married couple, I will have to adopt Sheila’s children as a second parent, at a cost of more than $3,000 after lawyer’s fees and court costs. We will have to go in front of a judge who will have to approve the adoption — despite the fact that Sheila and I have spent literally years of our lives together planning for these babies. In the 90 days between the birth of the two children and the time that I can officially adopt the children, I will have no legal rights to them if something were to happen to her.

We have paid $800 to draw up wills and powers of attorney to protect ourselves in case something happens to one of us — protections that come automatically when an opposite-sex couple is married.

The Hansen-Lovis family

I was hospitalized last year with a scary and unknown illness. I was more terrified then I had ever been when they told me I might lose consciousness. I turned to Katie, who held my hand the entire time, and told her she was to be in charge of my affairs should I become unconscious. We knew, of course, that she could not be, that the law will not recognize her as anyone to me. Not the person that stayed by my hospital bed, not the person that begged to stay the night in order to comfort me, not the person that stood by me and helped me to make sense of an illness a year later. In the eyes of Minnesota, that person doesn’t exist to me. How is it democratic to deny someone the right to be loved and cared for? Why does Minnesota need to be sure that Katie can’t make my medical decisions? Why is it in Minnesota’s best interest to make us struggle?

The Pfeifle-Weber family

On February 14, 2006, we adopted two wonderful boys. It was the best Valentine’s Day gift we could’ve asked for! The boys are now 10 and 11 years old and we could not imagine the last 6 years without them.

The amendment that Minnesotans will vote on this November is very scary to us – not only is it anti-marriage, but it is also anti-family and anti-freedom. We see this amendment only as a start to eroding our family, which for the last 13 years has been built on nothing but love, commitment, responsibility and care for each other and our children. If the amendment passes we fear other things – like adoptions by committed gay couples – could be next.

The Westerfield family

Jeff lost his job, so we had to move to Seattle, Washington, for a new one. We settled in with new friends, bought another ramshackle house and went to work on it. Everyone knew us as a couple, and when we mentioned that we weren’t technically married, we had to explain that legally, we couldn’t be. We did register as civil partners – the best we could do in Seattle. And we went to a lawyer and set up legal and medical powers of attorney and a contract giving each other as many of the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage as we could. It took us almost $5,000 to get more or less the same contract heterosexuals could get with an $85 marriage license. …

John’s family was upset that we were “living in sin,” so two years ago we went to Iowa and officially wed. We’ve been together for 25 years, now. I’m retired, John has multiple sclerosis, and our grandson is about to enter kindergarten. We couldn’t be more married!

Defeating the marriage amendment will not legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota. I wish it would. Defeating the marriage amendment just leaves us where we are now, with a Minnesota law that denies same-sex couples the right to marry, and with more than 500 Minnesota laws enforcing second-class citizenship, in areas from taxation to pensions to disability leave to health insurance coverage … the list goes on and on.

Voting no on the marriage amendment is just a first step, but it is a very necessary first step that will open the road to taking next steps toward full equality.

 

And the arguments:

Equality Matters has a full discussion of four of the most egregious claims about what the amendment, or legalizing gay marriage, would do, and the facts that show these charges are wrong:

 

CLAIM: Children In Massachusetts Were Forced To Learn About Same-Sex Marriage

REALITY: Same-Sex Marriage Won’t Affect School Curricula

CLAIM: Religious Adoption Agencies In DC, Boston Were “Forced” To Shut Down For Refusing Service To Same-Sex Couples

REALITY: Catholic Adoption Agencies Voluntarily Ended Their Services

CLAIM: Business Owners Have Been Sued For Refusing Service To Same-Sex Weddings

REALITY: Lawsuits Were Filed Over Violations Of  Non-Discrimination Laws

CLAIM: Churches Will Lose Tax Exempt Status For Denying Services To Same-Sex Couples 

REALITY: New Jersey Church Was Able To Keep Its Tax Exemption

 

Minnesotans United has a fact check website dealing with more of the claims.

 

MPR News has a great historical overview of the roots of the debate.

 

Voting no — unfortunately — will not make gay marriage legal in Minnesota. Defeating the amendment just makes it possible, at some time in the future, for the Minnesota legislature to reconsider the current law prohibiting gay marriage.

 

[I’m taking time off this weekend for a writing retreat. I’m going to spend time writing about several election issues. In some ways, this feels like a futile exercise — who’s listening to me, anyway? And hasn’t it all been said already? Even so, I’m going to do it, writing what I think and linking to sources I trust, where you can get a lot more information. This post is one of my 2012 issues series.

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