On Being Democratic (With a Little D)

For any readers not from Minnesota, our state is currently in a political battle regarding a constitutional amendment that would define marriage in Minnesota as that between only 1 man and 1 woman. Currently, same-sex marriage in Minnesota is illegal. My views on this issue are straightforward and three-pronged:

  1. I support all marriage and all families and feel any ban on the right to marry to be wrong, including the law as it currently exists.
  2. A constitutional amendment is a very big deal and should not be taken lightly. Regardless of position on the issue, voters need to ask themselves if the state constitution is the appropriate avenue of action.
  3. The rights of any minority population should never be determined by the political will and opinion of the majority. To do so is to exert an unethical amount of power simply based on arbitrary characteristics, such as race or sexual orientation.

I emphatically oppose the marriage amendment.

While at the State Fair, I approached the Minnesota for Marriage booth, an organization that supports the amendment. I am sure they got harassed and heckled often throughout the fair, as the Twin Cities is a particularly liberal part of the state and has a strong “Vote No” movement. However, I was not there to heckle or cause problems, I was there to engage in dialogue (In case any of you have forgetten, democracy is about discussion and compromise, not attack advertisements in the commercial breaks of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo). Instead, Aaron and I were treated pretty poorly and I was offended. So I wrote Minnesota for Marriage an email, sharing with them the dialogue I would have liked to have had during the State Fair.

I did not receive a response. But, I do have a small victory to share. The pamphlet that my email (text below) references, 77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage, was a terrible document. And I told them that (again, see email below). Today I went to their website to see if I could find it, and they have since removed it!

I have no idea whether or not my email made a lick of difference, but I certainly hope so. While I don’t support their position on gay marriage, what was most bothersome was that they were generalizing that gay couples would create a long list of child-raising problems that could happen to any family and that they made claims about “studies” and “research” without providing any citation.

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Hello,

Today my fiance and I were happily taking in the Minnesota State Fair– an event that each of us has been attending since childhood, and one that I have known to be a great place for open-minded and friendly discussion of the matters that face our state.

We are both highly educated and hold advanced degrees, myself in political science and health, and my fiance in history and law. We take voting incredibly seriously and rarely vote strictly on party line. While I cannot speak for my fiance, I have never voted for all Democrats or all Republicans. We were interested in talking to your volunteers about the issue of the marriage amendment vote coming in November and had no intention of starting an argument. We were genuinely interested in what your organization had to say.

Unfortunately, when asked “Can you please tell us why this amendment is important for Minnesota?” we were told “Here. Read this brochure. If you still have questions, talk to us.” And we were handed the 77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage. I felt entirely disrespected. First, a fellow Minnesotan who clearly feels that this is important to our state refused to have a dialogue about it and missed an opportunity to tell us why this amendment could improve our state and ultimately missed an opportunity to influence our votes. Second, the brochure itself really does a disservice to the work you are doing for the following reasons:

  1. It isn’t created your organization, nor carry your logo. When investigating The Ruth Institute, I discovered that it’s founder and the author of your pamphlet, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, is a Research Fellow at the Action Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. Holding this position undermines her credibility to write a pamphlet on the non-religious reasons for man/woman marriage.
  2. In the pamphlet’s discussions about the importance of man/woman marriage, the impact on children or the child-parent relationship is heavily emphasized. However, these broad statements would imply that other non-traditional families are not only ineffective at raising well-adjusted children, but they too should unconstitutional in the state of Minnesota. For example, single parenting could result in any of the following: children being separated from at least one parent (Reason 2), different biological and legal care-givers (3), a lack of access to their complete genetic, cultural and social heritage (4), not every child may be able to maintain a relationship with both parents (11), not every child may be known by both parents (12), discipline and loyalties in a (potential) heterosexual stepparent households may be complicated (24, 26), father absence risks, such as teenage pregnancy or juvenile delinquency (32, 33 and 34), and poorly developed sexual identities amongst children (36). Of course, I did not list the potential outcomes for families with adopted children (like that of Dr. Morse), families in which one or both parents has a cognitive or physical disability, children raised by extended family members, children with one or more deceased parents, families in which one parent travels often for work or works more than 60 hours a week, and so on. These issues that you state would arise due to a gay marriage, really could arise in any family.
  3. Given your support of this document, I imagine that in the future your organization must also lobby for the constitutional banning of divorce, which would give rise to many of the child-raising ‘problems’ listed, and clearly be an “adult-centered” choice of the parents where the children’s interest is not adequately represented (Reason 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 62) and in which the state ultimately decides on parental rights (65).
  4. In addition, your organization may also be interested in limiting the rights of infertile heterosexual couples to used advanced medical technology to become pregnant (Reason 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51 [of note, Reason 51 makes a statement to what is morally or religiously correct, further undermining the author’s credibility]).
  5. Your pamphlet includes absolutely no citations for the research mentioned. Upon visiting The Ruth Institute website, I was not able to find citations for any of these 77 claims. As professionals in law and health, my fiance and I were appalled that you would present a pamphlet without citing the supporting research. As it is written, it can be taken as nothing more than the opinion of well-educated individual, regardless of the national organizations that support its publication.

I am sorry that your volunteers did not take the time to engage in a thoughtful discussion with us today. Your opposition was more than happy to engage with us, answer our tough questions, make simple and well-supported arguments, and not undermine our intelligence or religious faith. I am not sure if the way were treated was a symptom of your organizational attitude in reacting to those who challenge your position or simply the actions of 2 well-meaning but misguided volunteers, but it was an action that supports the problems we are currently experiencing in the political sphere– we simply don’t take time to discuss with those who question or whose opinion may differ from our own.

Sincerely,

Kate Muehe

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2 thoughts on “On Being Democratic (With a Little D)”

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