Ballot question won't 'protect' marriage, or change a thing

Lesley Toth

In a few, short weeks, Minnesotans will be asked to define marriage for thousands of our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members by voting on a constitutional amendment.

As the ECM Editorial Board so eloquently stated last week, this ballot question is about freedom. But it’s also about people. It’s about people like my former Milaca classmates who came out to me more than a decade ago — gay boys who were born right here in our little town and knew their sexual orientation was no more of a choice than their dark brown hair or vibrant green eyes. It’s about people like my college newspaper co-worker, who will not be able to marry the man he loves in the state of Minnesota — even if this amendment fails.

Voting yes for the marriage amendment won’t stop them from being gay any more than the brutal teasing they endured by our classmates.

Voting yes won’t stop them from meeting, falling in love and having children or adopting and raising their families in our communities. Gays and lesbians have been creating families for generations and will continue to do so.

Voting yes won’t protect marriage from its 50 percent divorce rate among heterosexual couples. More and more children are growing up with two moms and two dads as “traditional” marriages fail and new ones are created.

Voting yes won’t stop same-sex marriage from eventually being accepted by the population and, more importantly, our laws. And voting yes won’t make gay marriage illegal — state statutes already prohibit it.

Voting yes will, however, enshrine prejudice in our state constitution and make it all the more costly and difficult to overturn — which can only be achieved by another constitutional amendment. Demographics show that as our population ages and new generations take the helm, gay marriage will be accepted — among liberals and conservatives alike. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Voting yes will also send a message to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters that you believe they are somehow undeserving of the stable, loving commitment that is marriage and the more than 500 civil benefits that comes with it.

All of the things voting yes won’t do make me question the purpose of such an amendment. The only thing it accomplishes is making it harder for future generations to govern how they see fit. Is this the legacy we wish to leave tomorrow’s Minnesotans — that today’s voter believes tomorrow’s leaders will be wrong, so they will hamstring their ability to enact laws?

Voting no won’t change a thing for homosexuals in this state. Voting no doesn’t mean they will be free to marry their partners beginning in 2013. Voting no doesn’t mean you have to accept homosexuality or approve of same-sex couples. Voting no won’t give them hospital visitation rights, spousal survival benefits or numerous other rights heterosexual couples take for granted.

Voting no does mean that we still believe in the value of freedom for all people — white or black, Catholic or agnostic, rich or poor — gay or straight. Voting no will tell those generations to come that when the entire country was bogged down in popular votes attempting to define our neighbor’s marriages, we took the high road.

Voting no will tell my former classmates and college friend that there is still hope — that Minnesotans put freedom first, opportunity before oppression and people before prejudice.