Guest commentary: Choose for fairness, freedom and love
By: From Leo Babeu, Clover Valley, Lake County News Chronicle
Three months ago I put a sign up next to our mail box along my dusty county road. Its simple message reads “Vote No on the Marriage Amendment…Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry”. I thought it was a practical way to show my support for all the people I’ve known in committed loving long-term relationships with same-sex partners. People who work, pay taxes, vote, raise kids, struggle to make ends meet, and volunteer in their communities in almost every capacity-- people we all meet virtually every day. I also thought it was a good idea for me, a person who’d benefited from 25 years of being legally married, to point out that marriage had been good for my family and it would be a good idea for more folks to be free to marry.
The Marriage Amendment ballot question reads: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota?” It was placed on the Nov. 6th ballot by the 2011 state legislature. These simple words will limit both the freedom to marry and the rights of “we the people” to ultimately decide this issue through our elected leaders.
A state constitution should define our rights and responsibilities as citizens. Seventy percent of Minnesotans believe that gays and lesbians should have the same rights and responsibilities as anyone else, which doesn’t mean only the rights and responsibilities that are acceptable to the minority who disapprove of same sex marriage.
Marriage is both a civil institution and a religious sacrament or ceremony. It is a measure of our religious freedom and tolerance that all churches and denominations are free to define what their church considers an appropriate marriage before their God. Rejecting the marriage amendment affirms that freedom since the proposed amendment would actually constrain the religious freedom of hundreds of churches that desire to consecrate legally valid marriages of same sex couples.
No one religion or coalition of religious leaders, should impose laws that limit the rights of others without compelling moral reasons which the society as a whole accepts. This amendment betrays the universal ideals that a constitution should enshrine for all citizens. Under the amended constitution, gay and lesbian couples would be excluded from the responsibilities and loving commitment that legal marriage represents – simply because of who they are.
When this amendment is defeated, nothing will change for lesbians and gays wishing to marry. Same-sex marriage will still be illegal according to existing state law. The absence of an onerous state amendment will not weaken my marriage or that of any other straight couple. Marriages succeed or fail for their own unique reasons, regardless of whether others are or are not permitted to marry.
This amendment seeks to end the debates about, and struggles for gay marriage, compelling our pluralistic society to permanently adopt the definition of marriage currently subscribed to by certain religious leaders and their followers. The marriage amendment will not make existing marriages any less challenging, nor will it improve the lives of the many wonderful children who are parented by same-sex partners. It would instead divide and distract us from the hard work to keep our society committed to the greater good. As Reverend Martin Luther King observed, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. I urge people of all backgrounds to have tolerance for all beliefs, but to make a choice for fairness, freedom, and love. Vote No on November 6th.