Mama, I want to marry a boy…

My four year old, who trusts me to love him unconditionally, pulled on my sleeve yesterday morning. From the corner of my eye I had just seen him, donned in sheriff’s badge and rubber band gun, staring at an orange sign. He pulled me down to his height and whispered, “Mama, I want to marry a boy.” I said “You can marry whomever you love.” He responded, “uffda.” If you aren’t from around here or Scandinavia, “uffda” is not so much a word as an exhalation. It is also a call to feel someone’s pain, suffering, fear, or relief. The closest expression to “uffda” I can recall I learned from my students in the 90’s; “you feel me?” The only appropriate response from a loving mom to her son’s “uffda” is, “I feel ya, baby. I feel you.” Someday he may want to marry a Jenny or a Jake, but what I felt from him yesterday was a natural desire to be free to follow his heart.

Today, I rest assured that 51% of Minnesotans voted in favor of freedom and we celebrate that Minnesota was the first state in the U.S. to defeat a Marriage Amendment. I am proud we will continue our evolution toward legalization of marriage for all. I am thrilled we chose to protect our Constitution from being used to restrict rights. But I will admit, I am also sad about the 49% who voted in favor of the amendment. I believe we will someday look back and see that voting “yes,” was a vote for separate but equal. I know it’s important to understand the views that oppose mine. I live by the philosophy of honoring differences in points of view, culture and religion. But I can’t get to the other side of this issue without seeing discrimination. I will not accept that asking our government to define marriage exclusively as one man and one woman is practicing the “freedom” of religion. In truth, it is the imposition of religion upon state law. Religion cannot be used to write law nor justify segregation. I believe it is possible to calmly and warmly say to marriage amendment proponents, “I think you are making a mistake.” My hope is that by the time my son is falling in love, the 49% of Minnesotans who voted “yes” will have new views on love and freedom. I would like to have a conversation with my son someday where his brow furrows, he recalls our orange sign, and he asks me, “Was equal rights to marriage really debatable? Uffda.” And I will say, “I feel ya, baby. I feel you.”

Marriage Protection

Last night I was watching Sandy and her path of destruction on the evening news. Amid shots of houses spinning like tops down the yards that once held them tight, an ad came on TV promoting the Marriage Protection Amendment. A couple from Massachusetts, just north of Sandy’s strike zone, warned, “don’t make the same mistake and think gay marriage won’t affect you.” The dismaying “affect” of which they spoke was that kids might be taught in public schools that some families have two moms or two dads. In response, first and foremost, children in schools across the U.S. are expected to show respect for each other and their differences, regardless of their religion, culture or opinions. Second, kids across Minnesota are already being taught in public schools about the vast variability in family structure. Third, kids attend schools that have gay students, gay parents, and gay employees and the federal government will not allow states to remove them, or quiet them, or segregate them, regardless of how we vote on this amendment.

I was astonished by their plea, but I didn’t wish a storm upon their house. Their lifestyle and their opinions were shameful to me, but I didn’t want to see their family go down in the storm. The proponents of this amendment, however, are mounting the wind and waves that will wound the homes of happy, high-functioning families. They are the genesis of a storm that is draining our state of thousands of dollars that could be allocated toward nobler pursuits. They are asking us to use our State Constitution to take rights away from our residents. They are sending the message to thousands of kids that their parents’ love for each other is less valuable than other unions. They are creating insecurity in the lives of kids whose parents have already faced bigotry, ridicule and judgment. Suggesting that same-sex marriage will affect us if we note “no” is like saying Sandy affected me because I had to watch the devastation on TV. Its absolutely insignificant compared to being hit by a storm. Bottom-line, this amendment demands that the proponents beliefs affect the rest of us, regardless of what WE believe. I want to protect my marriage too. I want to protect it from fear, from cruelty and from exclusion. Why do we have to keep learning over and over again in this country that it takes more energy to exclude people than it does to include them?