21 October 2012

A Vote for Love

There are few discussions in this world that get me more heated than that swirling around gay-marriage and rights for GLBTQ people in our country. It is a subject on which I find it hard to be tolerant. I understand that, for many people, it is a religious matter. But I cannot see past the faces of my friends, students, and family members who belong to the GLBTQ community. They are no less deserving of love and respect than any other person, and I refuse to accept any less than that for them.

In the past year,  Michele Bachmann goose-stepped this issue to center stage in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

We are facing this ban despite the fact same-sex marriage is (shamefully, I believe) already illegal in our state (thus making the amendment completely redundant). This brings us to the true challenge Minnesotans face now: to become the first state in the union to defeat a proposed constitutional same-sex marriage ban. Right now the polls are neck in neck, with 47% likely to vote for the amendment and 46% likely to vote against. I can only hope Minnesotans make the right choice. And so I (naturally) decided to throw in my two cents, hoping that my home state makes the right choice this November.

First, to dispel common myths: some who support the "vote yes" movement are attempting to portray a vote against the amendment as a vote for legalizing same-sex marriage. Rest assured, voting no does not legal gay-marriage in our state. Laws against gay marriage still exist. A vote no merely ensures that there is no constitutional amendment denying equality in Minnesota. Gay couples still won't be able to marry. We just won't have codified such intolerance into our constitution.

Many churches in our nation teach homosexuality--and by extension, same-sex marriage--is immoral. Do I agree? Absolutely not. I may not be Christian, but I was raised in a Catholic household and my Catholic-school education was pretty clear about the whole "love thy neighbor" thing. I'm pretty sure there was no exception made for gay people. Do churches have the right to deny same-sex marriages within their church? Absolutely. I may not like it--I may even vehemently believe it's contrary to the spirit of love and tolerance most religions preach--but I also passionately believe religions have every right to decide the rules for their congregations.

They do not, however, have the right to decide laws for the rest of the world. Despite what many people want us to believe, ours is a government meant to make secular laws. A Muslim lawmaker can no more require me to wear a veil than a Christian lawmaker can decide to make marriage laws based on his or her biblical interpretation. I'm pretty sure separation of church and state is a constitutional guarantee already.

My hope here is that those who are considering voting yes on the amendment think long and hard about what their vote means this fall. A vote yes means a little less freedom in Minnesota. A little less love. A little less tolerance, acceptance, and kindness in the world.

A vote yes means a lot more hatred; a lot more judgement; and most devastatingly, a lot more pain.

Do you have to support same-sex marriage to vote no? No. My father is a prime example. I've known for years that he doesn't support same-sex marriage; it's been a major source of contention between us since I was in high school. When I asked him about this amendment, however, he told me quite firmly that he plans to vote no, despite his disapproval and discomfort with homosexuality. Why? Because he's uncomfortable with the government amending its constitution to limit anyone's rights. He's uncomfortable with the government intruding into people's private lives. He's uncomfortable with making laws based on religion, even if it's his religion.

If only all people could be so courageous.

My plea, today, is to my fellow Minnesotans: This fall, no matter what your religion, no matter what your personal feelings about homosexuality, vote no. Do not allow our state to follow in the footsteps of so many others by limiting anyone's personal rights. Do not tell any group of people that their love is less than yours. In a world already beset by religious, economic and political strife, do not limit the one thing that binds us all together: love.

This fall, Minnesota has the opportunity to send a message to the rest of the country: hatred and intolerance have no place in Minnesota Nice. We have the chance to show the rest of the country that religion has a place in our world, but it's not in our laws. We have a chance to show future generations that we knew better.

Your religion may teach you homosexuality is immoral. That's your personal belief and you have every right to it. But our laws must be for everyone. Our laws must protect our rights. Our laws must accept each and every person, no matter what we personally believe.

A vote no is not a vote for homosexuality. A vote no is not even a vote for same-sex marriage. It's so much more than that.

A vote no is a vote for love. All love. Everyone's love. Wonderful, beautiful, healing love.

I sincerely hope that the Land of 10,000 Lakes makes the right choice in November and sends a clear message to all who are watching, to all those in the closet and out, to all those who have struggled for acceptance:

We are more than individual religions and beliefs. We are united in tolerance and love for everyone.

Stand together, Minnesota.

Vote no.