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Marty: "The Time for Marriage Equality is Here"

The Roseville DFL state senator makes the case for allowing gay marriage.

Editor's note: State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, wrote the following opinion piece for the Apple Pie Alliance. He has shared it with Roseville Patch:

A massive Valentine's Day rally at the Minnesota State Capitol, which included more than a hundred clergy and religious leaders calling for the state to allow same-sex couples to marry, is no longer surprising. 

Times have changed. In 1997, when the Minnesota legislature passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), to "defend" marriage against same-sex couples, only a handful of legislators voted against it, and even fewer were willing to speak against it. Back then we received stacks of letters, many filled with hateful comments, condemning us for supporting the right of all people to marry the person they love. 

Over time, there has been growing recognition that LGBT families deserve fair treatment. Even the strongest proponents of the constitutional amendment have changed their strategy and rhetoric in response to shifting public opinion.

Ten years ago, Michelle Bachmann's legislation would have amended the constitution to ban not only marriages, but also civil unions. Now, less than a decade later, the amendment's authors declined to put a civil union ban in their proposal, knowing how unpopular that would be. 

Shortly before the election, a gay TV reporter asked the spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, the pro-amendment group, "How is my relationship less valid than others?" She responded, "[It is] certainly not less valid.... We understand that same-sex couples can love each other and commit to each other." This from the spokeswoman leading the fight against marriage equality! That's a huge change. 

Opponents of marriage equality often speak of religious "truths" to make their case. My religious faith teaches that we are to treat others the way we would want to be treated. My church, like many others, promotes making a sacred, lifelong bond between couples who love each other. It is because of our faith, not in spite of it, that we promote marriage and work to strengthen families of same-sex couples just as with heterosexual ones.

For us, the countless scripture passages on love and commitment, on honesty and fidelity, on compassion and understanding, and on the importance of parents caring for each other and their children are more compelling than the handful of verses that have been used by others to argue against homosexuality. 

The religious leaders who came to the Capitol on Valentine's Day asking for marriage equality aren't asking others to share their religious beliefs; they respect the beliefs of those who disagree. They don't want the state to interfere with the religious beliefs of any of its people. Just as a church or religious denomination that objects to same-sex marriage has the right to refuse to solemnize those marriages, a church or religious denomination that believes in the value of same-sex marriage should have the right to solemnize those marriages. 

The current law banning marriage doesn't stop same-sex couples from falling in love, from making commitments to each other, from sharing their lives together, from raising children, or from growing old together. Their love and commitment is a wonderful thing and healthy for society. There is no rational reason for denying their families the same rights and responsibilities that other married people have, including the right to pension and Social Security survivor's benefits, the right to family and medical leave, and numerous other benefits and obligations. 

Many of these couples have been partners for more than the three decades that my wife Connie and I have been married, yet they still do not receive the same legal protections and rights that we have. They have been waiting for a long time.

I am confident that we will pass marriage equality legislation this session. Some would rather that we postpone the issue for a few years, but justice requires that we provide equality for LGBT families, and that we do so now. 

Human rights for any minority should never be subject to popular opinion. Even so, the legislators who believed it should be determined by a statewide vote, got their way. And they lost. 

We will pass legislation allowing all Minnesotans to marry the person they love - not because the majority rejected the amendment last fall - but because it is the right thing to do. The point here is that the opponents can no longer claim to have strong backing from the public.

The conversation about marriage equality that began last year in communities around the state helped build understanding of the value of all families. Passing legislation to allow marriage for all couples will not stop this conversation. Year after year, Minnesotans will continue gaining understanding and respect for those who are different from us. 

Now, we can act. This year, we will finally give all Minnesotans the freedom to marry the person they love. And that's a beautiful thing.

Mark Stanley February 18, 2013 at 02:30 PM
You can paint your body red, but you are not a fire truck!
Tony Nickelsen February 18, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Social issues on both sides of the aisle seem to be dominating the political conversation at the capital. Last year it was the Republicans trying to have voters decide on a constitutional amendment enacting that marriage should be strictly between a man and a women. The voters spoke and it was defeated. And, now that the Democrats are in the majority of both houses and the governors office, there seems to be a feeling that it's my turn to turn the tables and push the "Gay Marriage" bill down the constituents throat. Sen. Marty, I've supported you for a long time, but am very disturbed in that you'd rather spend more time on social/religious issues then on solving the states budget woes.
Shari Dion February 20, 2013 at 02:31 PM
I appreciate courageous individuals who work for a fair and caring society even when they know they will be criticized for their efforts. With all due respect Tony, when is the "right" time to address this human rights issue? I don't see this as an "either/or" situation. Our elected officials must address more than one important issue at a time - ideally, not for the purpose of gaining popularity and future votes but for the goal of improving current and future living conditions for those they serve. We all have too many friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members etc. who have been denied kind, caring, and fair treatment for too long. I marvel at the patience they have shown while waiting for us, the majority, to give them access to basic rights and privileges. My family's finances are extensively impacted by the fact that my husband and I are allowed certain rights, privileges, and responsibilities because we are married. In our home being legally married and addressing our budget are related. Our state's budget AND human rights issues can both be addressed. Multiple things need to get done - for a better Minnesota. I know you will continue thinking about this Tony, because you do seriously ponder various sides of issues. I would be grateful for your thoughts on the right time to work on this issue that is so significant for so many people. This impacts them today and every single day of their lives. If not now, when?
C. Rocke February 23, 2013 at 03:11 PM
It's ironic to me that Sen. Marty tries to use a religious argument to defend his views. Not only does it show his lack of Biblical knowledge, it always makes the argument that the only opposition to gay marriage are religious views. Maybe some of us oppose legally accepting gay marriage because of the MASSIVE cultural change this would wreak. Maybe some of us don't want to rewrite biology, science, and sociology as we know it. I don't know but there's only THOUSANDS of books that clearly outline the differences between men and women. Now we're going to publicly say: we don't care if men and women are different and that their pyschological aspects actually COMPLIMENT each other and give balance to life...no, we're going to redefine not only "normal" but also humanity as we know it. I'm not worried about the gay couples. I'm worried about the kids they'll be "having" together. I'm worried about what the next generation is going to look like. I'm worried about the harrasment of so-called "anti-gays" (apparently like me) that oppose gay marriage - and if you don't see it, then the term anti-gay should speak loud enough for itself. Let me say it, I'm not anti-gay...I oppose gay marriage. Plain enough?
Tony Nickelsen February 24, 2013 at 06:07 AM
I'm not saying discontinue discussions on Human Rights Issues, on the contrary. All I'm saying is during the 2012 election year, the Republicans and Democrats of this state exerted a huge amount of energy and money to push this social agenda. The Republicans, mainly state rep. Mary Kiffmeyer decided to push the Marriage Act to the voters after it was vetoed by Gov. Dayton the year before. The Dems pushed back that effort by defeating the measure. All fine and well. Now that the Dems have Gov. & Leg. control of both houses, it's now there turn to push for a gay marriage proposal. I would feel more comfortable with Civil Union over actual marriage. I do agree with C. Rocke that I too am not anti-gay or against gay relations, that is none of my business. I'm just not ready to declare same sex couples to be officially declared married.

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