Because the long arc of the universe bends toward justice.

Archive for June, 2011

Marriage equality: Bullying

During one of the rallies at the Minnesota capitol in May 2011, I made a sign that said

I was bullied by my classmates and now I’m being bullied by my legislators!”

What does bullying look and sound like?

It’s repetitive and relentless. It’s unkind.

It’s based on intentionally intruding on the personal space and private life of someone else who was minding her or his own business, just because the bully wasn’t feeling good about himself or herself.

It’s based on not wanting to be seen as vulnerable and wanting to hold onto some perceived or distorted sense of entitlement or privilege, magically bestowed upon them “just because it’s always been that way”–whether privilege is based on skin color (White privilege), gender (male privilege), sexual orientation (heterosexual privilege), etc.

The closer to the truth that less-privileged people get, and the more visible the truth becomes, the harder the bully fights, makes up stories, and resorts to greater harm, either verbally or with action.

But when the power structures turn their gaze toward the bully, and when the power structures start to introduce new policy and laws that move the less-privileged group toward integration in a more just society, the bully may start to act all sweet and innocent, sometimes even blaming the initial less-privileged group for having started it.

Or the bully can get fiercely more vitriolic and violent, in word and deed.

On the threshold of marriage equality in the U.S., gays, lesbians, and our allies are standing up to the bully that has been dominating the discourse.

We are saying No more.

We see who the real bullies are, and we are calling you all out.

Equality is coming. And love will prevail.


Marriage equality: The imposition of heterosexuality on American society

Someone once said “We are socialized without our consent.” As the debate about moving toward marriage equality heats up again, a new message of Crying Wolf is being raised:

“Don’t let the gays impose their lifestyle on us!”

Excuse me, but it’s not the gays and lesbians who will be imposing on the heterosexual lifestyle. Minority groups work for equality and justice, not for everyone to become identical and homogenous.

Historically, it’s been the heterosexuals who have been imposing on the GLBTQ community:

  • So far, heterosexuality has been imposed upon gays and lesbians who haven’t had the inner strength to be who they are called to be and to love how they are called to love.
  • The imposition of heterosexuality onto gays and lesbians has looked like excluding certain men and women from religious traditions or even faith communities.
  • The imposition of heterosexuality has looked like pressuring certain men and women to enter into heterosexual marriages against their better judgment.
  • The imposition of heterosexuality has looked like censoring certain materials to keep them out of religious books, out of certain libraries, out of the public eye.
  • The imposition of heterosexuality has looked like banning certain youth from living at home with the single parent or the married parents who raised them.
  • The imposition of heterosexuality has looked like bullying elementary school kids and middle school kids who maybe look different or act different from the bullies themselves.

And what does bullying look like?

I’ll include that in another post.

Marriage equality: Field test the expected language of the proposed amendment

It appears to be very significant to field test with and poll people using the expected language used on Minnesota’s proposed constitutional amendment and not its converse.

Expected language of the proposed constitutional amendment:

Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?

Why it’s important to use the above language as we engage Minnesotans in conversation about voting NO on this proposed amendment:

1. Conservatives acknowledge that when they polled people about a question such as “Are you in favor of a banning gay marriage?” in contrast with a question such as “Should marriage be defined as between a man and a woman?” the difference in opinion polls was TEN POINTS.

2. The more time Minnesotans have to think about the actual question that will be posed, the more time they have to “unpack” what is hidden in that question.

Example 1: Why don’t Conservatives want to use the question “Shall Minnesota ban gay marriage”?

When have there been other times when the population wanted to define marriage so as to restrict minority groups from being able to marry, and where do those groups stand now?

  • Blacks couldn’t marry blacks at one point
  • Interracial marriage was illegal until 44 years ago

Example 2: Why do Conservatives want an amendment on top of the DOMA law, which already defines marriage as between a man and a woman?

  • The complaint is “activist judges.”
  • This proposed amendment is about obstructionist politics.

Example 3: When have there been other times in history when a minority group has had their rights put to a vote, and how do those times reflect on the current proposed amendment?

  • All sorts of laws regarding the rights of enslaved Africans
  • The right for women to own property or to vote
  • The right for African Americans to vote (cf. poll taxes)

3. Anecdotal evidence when asking Minnesotans about their view on same-sex couples and same-sex marriage.

I live in the Twin Cites. I’ve asked a small sample of Minnesotans who also live in the Twin Cities about their views on same-sex marriage. All of them (100%), including strangers, said they either support same-sex marriage or that we should “live and let live,” “keep what goes on in the bedroom private,” etc. BUT– when I then asked the question as it is phrased in the proposed amendment, all but two (80%) answered they would vote FOR the amendment. When they were told about the incongruence between their initial stance on same-sex marriage and how they responded to the amendment, most were embarrassed or taken aback when they realized they would have voted for something they didn’t want to endorse.

This anecdotal evidence may well point to the importance of making Minnesotans aware of how the question will be phrased on the 2012 ballot and how the question is directly related to the issue of marriage equality and supporting same-sex marriage.

Marriage equality: Links of interest


Freedom To Marry‘s report on Why Marriage Matters (as a pdf file), including tips on how to lift up shared values and about reframing the conversation on what marriage “gives” to all couples and families.

What happened with California’s failed campaign to defeat Proposition 8: what worked, what didn’t; what ads and responses were or weren’t effective

Melissa Harris-Perry’s 2011 article on LGBT advocates and their need for a public, progressive faith

Warren Blumenfeld addresses scapegoating and stereotyping of the GLBT community

Abby Ferber points out how heterosexual privilege and adultery by straight men feed into the accusation that same-sex marriage will destroy straight marriage

Wikipedia’s entry on Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” homophobic campaign in the 1970s

NPR story on upcoming 2012 vote on proposed constitutional amendment, with graphics about recent polls

Articles from the anti-marriage-equality group Minnesota Family Council’s website that were later removed


Raw footage from the Minnesota Capitol as the House floor vote is taken and immediately afterward

Two Conservative Americans change their mind about gay marriage

A young female Republican from Minnesota, Madeline Koch, offers testimony in support of marriage equality in front of the Minnesota Senate

Minnesota Representative Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) speaks out against the proposed constitutional amendment about defining (restricting) marriage

California voters talk about how they feel toward same-sex marriage and why they voted the way they did on Proposition 8

Iowa grandmother supports her gay son and speaks out in favor of gay marriage

Two of TV’s “Golden Girls” talk about how marriage is about love, not about gender

Marriage equality: Actions

Possible actions to take in advance of 2012 vote on defining (restricting) marriage

1. Travel across Minnesota, asking allies and supportive faith communities to host Open Houses or Round Tables

  • How to talk about the issue
  • How to host Open Houses

2. Travel across Minnesota, reaching out especially to people who are struggling with the issue

  • Do they know about the proposed constitutional amendment?
  • Do they know how the issue would affect same-sex committed couples?
  • Among their circle of friends, do they have someone who is in a same-sex relationship?
  • What would help them clarify the issues? How can I/we help?

3. Have communities of GLBT people participate in community actions that aren’t about GLBT issues.

  • Wear same colored shirt.
  • Identify when a donation is made by a member of the GLBT community and/or by a committed/married same-sex couple.

4. Interview and record/video straight married couples, especially in Iowa but also in D.C. and in other states that legally recognize all married couples.

  • Seek couples who can affirm that their marriage hasn’t been threatened, hurt, or undermined by same-sex marriage.
  • Seek a diversity of couples.

5. Create a series of small booklets, pamphlets, or tracts that address various topics.

  • Marriage equality
  • Threats to marriage
  • Living with being conflicted
  • Being socialized without our consent
  • Married couples living side by side
  • Marriage, love, and gender
  • Making nice with marriage in Minnesota
  • Personal story, whatever it may be

6. Work within your house of worship to host a joint/simultaneous Renewal of Vows for all couples, while also demonstrating a witness for marriage equality.

  • Invite the public to attend.
  • In the program/press release, have information about the upcoming vote on the proposed constitutional amendment and, for transparency, what the arguments are on both sides.
  • Have some way to increase the level of accountability for attenders/participants to advocate for marriage equality and to get the message out to vote NO in 2012.

NOTE: The idea for this sort of action comes from the Quakers at Milwaukee Friends Meeting from a few years ago and from this June 2011 article by an African American pastor who is in a heterosexual interracial marriage.

7. Create webpages or websites dedicated to certain themes or concepts.

  • A visual image to address the 515 rights denied same-sex couples in Minnesota: An expandable file with tabs. Click on the tab and an expanded description of that item pops up. The “description” could be a personal true story that illustrates the right that is taken for granted by straight couples but is denied to same-sex couples, regardless of how long their commitment and life together has been. (ex. My friend’s story of how, when her partner of 28 years died, the people who came to remove the body asked, “Who’s the next of kin?” My friend replied, “I am,” but the people there said, “No you’re not,” and on the death certificate, her marital status was listed as “Single.”
  • The changes to the institution of marriage, made visually interesting. Something like an image side by side with passages from Scripture that describe marriage.
  • A flow chart, showing the deterioration of rights when a law or constitutional amendment is passed that disadvantages or punishes a group that doesn’t conform to or look like the majority/those in power
  • Messages we’ve “inherited” or have been indoctrinated by, simply by the process of socialization and structural racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.

Marriage equality: Messages and quips

Ideas to be used in print advertisements, video, leaflets, TV ads, etc.

1. Don’t mess with Minnesota Nice.

2. It’s not nice to vote on someone else’s relationship.

3. Marriage is about love, not about gender.

4. Same-sex marriage doesn’t threaten marriage. Divorce, affairs, and irreconcilable differences do.

5. Your anonymous vote hurts my marriage.

6. A vote to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman is like a big bully who preys on other kids just because they’re different.

7. Groups that say that same-sex marriage goes against the Bible or hurts children are crying Wolf. This time, Minnesota, let’s not listen to their false alarms.

8. The Catholic Church is deliberately working to insert their own religious beliefs into how Minnesotans are to be governed. (See Catholic writer Richard Rodriguez’ comments here.)

9. Keep the Catholic Church in the church, not the bedroom.

10. If religious people want all Americans to be authentic and truthful, then GLBT people must be encouraged to be fully who we are with access to full and equal protections, rights, and privileges afforded all citizens.

Marriage equality: Video ideas


    Sounding the “Protect Our Children/Protect Marriage” alarm is the equivalent of Crying Wolf.

    Compare the recent history of ads in other states as “crying wolf.” Interview married straight couples who have lived “side by side” with legally/equally recognized same-sex couples–especially from IA–to talk about how/whether same-sex marriage has threatened their own straight marriage and/or their kids.


    Show a person going into a voting booth. Person pulls out a sheet of paper with a list of “Reasons for amendment” and “Reasons against amendment” (be careful to align “for” and “against” with choices that relate directly to the choices on the ballot). Person hovers over the proposed amendment; zoom in on reasons. Last one or two on “Reasons against” say,

    “The DOMA law already hurts many Minnesotans. This will hurt more.” and “Equality is coming.” Person circles one or the other; checks box/fills in circle for NO.

    Alternate ending: Voter fills in YES, acts uncertain, goes to turn in ballot but before doing so, goes up to election judge instead: “I made a mistake and need a new ballot.”


    Identify outstanding scholars and athletes who are middle school, high school, and college students, as well as talented and gifted younger kids, maybe even young adults, who were raised by same-sex couples. Be sure to include children of color. Also identify kids from straight couples. Mix them together, maybe a line of 30-50 of them, or flash their faces one at a time. Then ask the question,

    “Can you tell which of these outstanding, talented children are from households with two parents of the same gender? Children don’t grow into healthy adults because they have a mother and a father. They grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults because they are loved for who they are.”

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