Faculty vote opposes state Voter ID, Marriage amendments

Macalester faculty voted to oppose the state Marriage and Voter ID Amendments this week. The vote established the faculty’s stance on what are unquestionably the two most hotly debated issues on the local ballot this fall. The vote does not establish Macalester’s position on the amendments as an entity.

A meeting of the Board of Trustees next month will cover the topic and consider a vote that will represent the school. The vote, which took place on Tuesday, was a voice vote and therefore was not tallied precisely. Both motions, however, were carried with vast majorities and only few dissenters.

If passed, the Marriage Amendment will legalize only unions between a man and a woman in the state of Minnesota. While gay marriage is already illegal in the state, the amendment will add the law to the state constitution, making it nearly impossible to appeal.The Voter ID Amendment, if passed, will require all Minnesota voters to prove state residence at the polls with a government-issued photo ID.

Many faculty members see the marriage amendment as a threat to the school’s status as an LGBTQ-friendly community. If voters choose to pass the amendment, they said, many members of the Macalester community might find reason to move out of state.

Biology and WGSS professor Lin Aanonsen, longtime partner of former Biology professor Jane Serie, saw it as an issue of basic human rights.

“We are here are about inclusiveness, support, caring, and offering basic human rights to everyone,” Aanonsen said. When Serie died of ovarian cancer in 2008, Aanonsen said her rights as a partner were not recognized. She would like to see that change.

“Our relationship was never questioned [by medical professionals],” she said. “We were always welcomed, nobody questioned my role in her life… [But] a family member had to sign to release her body, I could not legally do it.”

English and International Studies professor David Moore pointed out that Macalester would not be the first organization in the state to make public its stance on the amendments. In June, General Mills announced its opposition to the Marriage Amendment.

“We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy – and as a Minnesota-based company we oppose it,” Ken Charles, vice president of global diversity and inclusion for General Mills, wrote in a letter. His remarks were printed in the Star Tribune on June 14.

At their meeting this week, many Macalester faculty members hoped – and succeeded – to make the same statement. Philosophy professor Martin Gunderson, however, did not find it appropriate for the school to take a public stance as a single entity. He feared that voting directly on the marriage amendment in particular would alienate those who favor it, since they would be in such a clear minority.

“We, as a faculty, should not attempt to speak for those who are against [voting on the amendment],” Gunderson said.

When it came time to discuss the Voter ID amendment, the faculty produced less opposition. Knowing that the amendment would harm out-of-state students attending college in Minnesota (among others, including minorities and seniors),the faculty made no debate over the issue and took it straight to a unanimous vote in opposition.