More commitment, and stronger marriages, are what we need

John Berns
Former State Rep. John Berns.
Submitted photo

By John Berns

John Berns served in the Minnesota House of Representatives, as an aide and attorney to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and as the Minnesota state director for McCain-Palin 2008. He has been elected as a delegate to the last five state conventions of the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Marriage is a powerful force for good in society. It protects families and strengthens communities. It teaches children the importance of commitment, and it is a public declaration between two people that they will cherish and support each other, forever.

My wife Beth and I have been married for 10 years and we have five children together. Our wedding day was one of the best days of my life, and I have never regretted asking her to be my wife. She makes me a better man, and I'm so lucky to be married to her.

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But I do have one significant regret regarding marriage.

In 2006, I ran — and was elected — as the endorsed Republican candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 33B. As most candidates for public office do, I received a number of surveys to fill out — one of which was the Star Tribune's Candidate Profile. One of the questions asked of candidates was, "Should the state Constitution be amended to define marriage and its legal equivalent as the union of one man and one woman?"

To that question, I answered, "strongly agree." While I did not oppose civil unions, I believed that constitutionally limiting marriage to one man and woman was the right thing to do.

I've since had a lot of time to reflect on this issue. I was wrong.

Faith, family, hard work, individual freedom and personal responsibility are the core values that made our nation great — and I believe that the United States will continue to be that shining city on a hill if we stand by those values.

My Republican principles don't include limiting freedom. They don't include telling some people that their love and commitment to another person is less valuable than anyone else's, and they don't include exclusionary constitutional amendments. Our Constitution should protect individual freedoms, not limit them.

I'm voting "no" on the marriage amendment because marriage is such an important institution. America needs more commitment and stronger marriages. Marriage provides a common good unlike just about anything else — and something this important should not be limited.

The greatest thing about America is that, with hard work, anyone can achieve their dreams. I cannot imagine success in life without my wife and family. Everyone should have this same opportunity to achieve their dreams, marry the person they love and raise their children within this commitment.

I urge you to join me in voting "no" on the marriage amendment. And if you're still undecided, it's OK to take a second look and think about it some more. I did, and I've came to the conclusion that if I actually believe in the power of marriage, I cannot in good conscious vote in favor of this amendment. It is simply letting the government have too much control over the lives of Minnesotans — and it undermines the freedoms and family values that we hold dear.