By Grant Stevensen
Grant Stevensen is a Lutheran pastor and faith leader of Minnesotans United for All Families, which is working to defeat the marriage amendment.
Minnesotans United for All Families was formed in May 2011, immediately after the Minnesota Legislature voted to put the marriage amendment on the 2012 ballot. Unfortunately, in the midst of so many other social and economic challenges facing our state, this amendment was thrust on us as part of a national agenda to permanently limit the freedom of gay and lesbian people to marry.
No one asked for this conversation; it was forced upon us. Because of that, business leaders, faith communities, political leaders and elected officials have united to oppose this amendment. They are saying in one clear voice that amending our Constitution to limit the freedom to marry is not good for our families, our communities or the future of our state.
Faith communities were some of the first to organize and speak out against this amendment. Thirty states already have constitutional bans on marriage for same-sex couples. While this is a sad truth, we've had the opportunity to examine what happened in those states — and make sure we do something different here in Minnesota.
We know that Minnesotans are significantly more likely to oppose this amendment if they've heard from people they know about how hurtful it is. Minnesotans already know that marriage is about the love, commitment and responsibility that two people share with each other and with their family — and that limiting the freedom of two people to marry in our state is an abuse of our Constitution. No one — gay or straight — would want to be told that it is illegal to marry the person he or she loves.
It is crucial that Minnesotans of faith explain that they are voting "no" because of their religious beliefs — not in spite of them. We each must have the conversation with everyone we know — friends, family and neighbors alike — about why we oppose this amendment. The truth is that this amendment affects each and every one of us, because it will send a clear signal about what kind of state we want to be.
In general, we Minnesotans are a religious people, spanning an incredibly diverse array of faiths — but what is clear is that no matter what your faith tradition, you are not alone in opposing this amendment. People of faith are called to love and treat our neighbors as we would want to be treated. We should always honor and respect the freedoms of churches to follow their own doctrines, but this amendment would wrongly enshrine one limited interpretation of marriage into our state's Constitution.
Many Minnesotans are still conflicted about how they'll vote on this amendment, and it behooves everyone involved in this robust conversation to be open to hearing the concerns of others. Our state is in desperate need of an honest and positive conversation about who should have the freedom to join in marriage.
In total, Minnesotans United for All Families now boasts more than 650 coalition members working to defeat this amendment. Our coalition represents one of the broadest grassroots movements our state has ever seen.
Doctors, psychologists and pediatricians are also working closely with our campaign to defeat this amendment. According to the recent statement from the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 25-plus years of research has conclusively shown that "children's optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family than by the particular structural form it takes." The truth is that an open, free and equitable society makes for healthier people. This amendment would permanently exclude same-sex couples and their families from having the chance to enjoy the stabilizing factor of marriage.
These days, families are diverse — and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some children are raised by a single parent, while others are raised by their grandparents or other relatives. Many children are raised in loving, adoptive households, and still others have committed, same-sex parents. This amendment would tell some children that their families are less worthy than others. It would permanently and unnecessarily limit the freedoms of some families to share in marriage, simply because of who they are.
This amendment won't protect a single family or marriage — but it will do a great deal of harm to thousands of our neighbors and fellow citizens. Together, we can make sure the freedoms of all families are protected by voting "no."