I recently moved “back” to the great state of Minnesota. When I came here in '99, the governor was one Jesse Ventura, and when I later moved to California the governor spoke with an enduring Austrian accent. It seems I must inhabit states governed by actors from “The Running Man” (or “Predator”... thank goodness Sonny Landham's political career has gone nowhere ), except that these states (and many others) unfortunately share something else in common in my time of residence – constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage on the ballot.
4 years ago, Proposition 8 hurt. I was hosting a small party watching the election returns. By dinner time when people showed up, the presidential race had already been called. There was little to do but serve the food, drink the wine, watch senate races and progressively lose faith in California's progressivism. The result wasn't shocking – I'd certainly seen the polls and a weekend drive past a pro-8 rally in Newport Beach (with my mother yelling at them through the window from the backseat – I love my family) was all the reminder I needed of the state's crimson nether regions. Still, I held out some hope that late returns in L.A. county or even heavier turnout out of the bay area, until it became clear L.A. would stay on the wrong side of the ledger. That was depressing, and the cause of a significant amount of regret I didn't do more.
It's funny, sometimes, to hear the rhetoric about taking action on same-sex marriage. What's the current flavor of rhetoric on the Minnesota amendment?
"This is a positive affirmation, not intended to be hurtful or discriminatory to anyone," Nienstedt said. "Our understanding of marriage between a man and a woman predates any government, or in fact, any religious denomination."Oh, “positive.” That's okay, then.
Where in California Prop8's most visible backers appeared to be the Mormon Church and NOM, the religious lead up here is undeniably the Catholic Church here represented by the words of John Clayton Nienstedt, archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis. While giving him all due benefit of the doubt concerning that positive message, let's ask him to elaborate, courtesy of a Minnesota Public Radio interview
Crann: In the DVD, you call same-sex marriage a 'dangerous risk to society.' Those are your words. Why is that?Followed later by...
Nienstedt: Because it confuses the very notion of marriage and the complementarity which marriage has always been founded upon between the two sexes, the man and the woman, the husband and the wife. And by expanding the definition of marriage, I mean where do you begin to stop? Who has the right to marriage? ...
We've been labeled as discriminating against gay people. There's no discrimination when there isn't a basic right to something. And those who have the right to marriage are men and women who want to enter into a life-long, mutually supportive and procreative relationship.
Crann: There is the issue, as I'm sure you're aware, that in your pews in parishes there are homosexuals, there are gay couples, there are in the homes receiving this, or certainly their friends, their family members, their own children. And what is your message to them?So, it turns out that Nienstedt's message “positively” and in a “non-discriminatory” manner informs homosexuals (and those heterosexuals who are either unable or unwilling to procreate) that sex is sinful outside of marriage and that they furthermore do not have any basic right to marriage. He explains that letting gay people marry would be “confusing.” I've been married a bit over four years now, so I suppose I should be concerned about this imminent threat...
Nienstedt: It would be the same message that I would give to young people who are not married that everyone, all of us, are called to live a chaste life and a chaste lifestyle and that sex is specifically meant to be expressed in a marriage relationship, a long-term commitment of a man and a woman, that is able to be reproductive in type, I think they use that expression, that it is open to the transmission of life.
Sweetheart, when I committed to a lifelong partnership, I didn't realize same-sex partners could likewise form loving, supportive relationships too! How can I possibly make the same commitment they do?
The slippery slope argument represented by “where do you begin to stop?” is apparently another vital concern.
Dear, this marriage thing we had was totally great until they started letting all the riffraff in.
These allegedly rational, secular motivations against same-sex marriage have been litigated elsewhere and don't merit much further discussion. These concerns were deconstructed quite adeptly in Vaughn Walker's prop 8 ruling. The terrible existence of gay marriage just across Minnesota's southern border has not torn apart my marriage (not yet anyway!), nor those of my Iowa in-laws. Surely Nienstedt wouldn't have any irrational, religious motivation for pursuing this constitutional action? Fortunately, his perspective was recorded online in his writings as Bishop of New Ulm...
Many behavioral scientists tell us that our unique sexual identity does not begin to be formed until eighteen months and continues until three years of age (see www.cathmed.org). During that time, the child reacts to his or her environment and relationships. It is thought that the homosexual inclination is the result of some psychological trauma that occurs in those relationships.Nienstedt is delivering a “positive” pseudoscientific message that directly conflicts with the position held by the American Psychological Association for over 30 years. In his public statements, vaguely dire warnings about the threat to marriage represented by homosexuality must appear more diplomatic, even if the homophobia is only thinly veiled and the “arguments” have no particular basis in reality. The “threat to marriage” always reminds me of the scene in “The Incredibles” which inspired this diary's title.
Violet Parr: What do you think is going on around here? You think we're on vacation or something? Mom and Dad's lives could be in jeopardy! Or worse... their marriage.It's much easier to laugh at Nienstedt's solemn, casual bigotry if you imagine him delivering it in red and black spandex.
Dash Parr: Their marriage? So... the bad guys are trying to wreck Mom and Dad's marriage.
Violet: Oh, forget it. You're so immature.
There's several plain lessons to take from the proposition 8 battle. A fundraising advantage doesn't always translate to the ballot box. A rising democratic tide does not lift all progressive issues. Don't draw false security from early favorable polls. Recent measures of public opinion give either a slight or significant edge to the amendment's passage. It's all well and good to be on the right side of history – there's still time and great need to make sure history doesn't step back in the wrong direction. If you live in Minnesota, vote no. If your friends live in Minnesota, talk to them. In all cases, contribute!
Minnesotans United for All Families
5:23 PM PT: Thanks for the rescue, angelic kossacks!