Letter: Marriage amendment should be defeated
To the editor,
Believe it or not, there are many Minnesotans that do not even know about the upcoming marriage amendment, let alone that have contemplated how they feel and how they will vote on the issue. As such, I was pleased to see that a dialogue has begun in Hastings with Patricia Chenier's letter to the editor last week. In response to a few of her arguments for the marriage amendment's passage, please allow me to offer some counterpoints for why I believe it should be defeated.
The view of marriage as a purely procreative union is outmoded by our current cultural norms and our feelings about human rights. We unequivocally celebrate the heterosexual marriages of couples who are unable to have children and those who choose not to have children. Using the procreation argument, then, should those couples have their marriages nullified? I certainly don't think so.
Gay men and lesbians are actually less likely to desire becoming parents than heterosexual individuals, but they apply the same amount of value to parenthood as do their heterosexual counterparts. (Source: Journal of Family Psychology) Same-sex couples who choose to raise children are, on average, more educated and more financially stable at the time of their first child's birth than first-time heterosexual parents. (Source: The Future of Children) Today's kids encounter peers at school with a wide range of alternative family structures. With approximately 75 percent of parents, nationwide, believing that sexual orientation should be discussed in school at an age-appropriate level (Source: Journal of School Health), and between two and 14 million American children having lesbian or gay parents (Source: Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics), why should we choose to institutionalize the notion that same-sex unions are less than equivalent to a heterosexual marriage? Many would bristle at applying such stigma to other non-nuclear family types, including blended, one-parent, and foster families, or multi-generational approaches to child-rearing.
Additionally, few people marry solely for procreation. Marriage represents a lifelong commitment to love and support another person, to have that commitment publicly recognized, and to have friends and family bear witness. For some, it is as simple as wanting to grow old with someone, to share hopes and dreams. In a more material sense, though, there are 515 legal benefits of marriage in Minnesota that are currently unavailable to committed same-sex couples. Restricting access to these benefits means that same-sex partners often cannot make medical or end-of-life decisions for their partners, cannot stake claim to jointly-held property and assets, cannot be guaranteed leave from work when their partners are injured or killed during active military duty, and cannot be enrolled in family health insurance policies to cover their partners and non-biological dependent children. (Source: Project 515)
Finally, the Marriage Amendment does not restrict religious freedom. Religious marriage is not the same as civil marriage, and the legislature can only mandate which couples are eligible for civil marriage (i.e., the marriage license obtained from a courthouse or city hall). The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution assures no house of worship can be forced to perform ceremonies contrary to its beliefs. Defeat of the Marriage Amendment would, in fact, increase the exercise of religious freedom for same-sex couples and many reconciling faith organizations. There are currently 75 communities of faith among the members of the Minnesotans United for All Families coalition, many of which stand ready and willing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. (Source: Outfront Minnesota)
Seventy percent of Minnesotans believe that gays and lesbians should have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else, yet the current right to marry in our state is anything but equitable. (Source: Project 515) If you believe that civil marriage ought to be defined by the lifelong love and commitment it represents, and not by the biological sex of those who pursue it, please join me in voting "No" on the marriage amendment in November. You can also pledge your support at www.mnunited.org.