MPIRG rallies against marriage amendment

By Chris Curtis

Should the Minnesota Constitution be amended to define marriage as between one man and one woman? The answer was a resounding “no” from the vocal crowd of more than 100 people who rallied to defeat the proposed amendment outside the Campus Center on Tuesday at an event sponsored by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) titled “Rally to Defeat the Marriage Amendment.” Tie-dye-clad volunteers collected 150 signed pledges to vote “no” on the measure when it appears on November’s ballot. Same-sex marriage has been outlawed since the state’s Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. Nelson that state law limited the right of marriage to heterosexual couples. Reaffirming the point, Minnesota statutes were also amended in 1977 to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Nonetheless, an amendment to the state constitution would enshrine the ban “where it would be safe from meddling by activist judges and politicians,” according to Jason Adkins, Vice President of Minnesota for Marriage. The proposed amendment was officially placed on the ballot after a vote in the State Legislature in May of last year. “An amendment to limit the rights of humans in our constitution is flat out wrong,” said state representative Erin Murphy of Ramsey County’s District 64A at Tuesday’s rally. “This amendment is redundant, unnecessary and mean-spirited.” Murphy voted against the amendment and said in an interview that it is the most polarizing and “emotionally intense” issue of her time in office. Asked to summarize why she supports same-sex marriage, Murphy said she considered it not only a human rights issue, but also “an issue of love.” Overcoming fear was a major theme throughout the rally. Organizers Lizzy Arsenault ’15 and Kate Ibur ’14 started the rally with an open invitation for anyone to take the stage. “If we are afraid we will never succeed,” said Ibur. When Murphy called to say she would be ten minutes late for her speech, Ibur and Arsenault were indeed unafraid to attempt “an impromptu dance party,” which resulted in the Representative arriving to blasting house music from the DJ club and a few people dancing in the crowd. Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, who also spoke, described support for the amendment as “a product of fear rather than knowledge” in an interview. He also discussed his own difficulties coming out as a teenager in the 1980s for fear of judgment, and how hearing support for the change brought back “that teenage dread in the pit of my stomach.” Opponents of the one-man-one-woman amendment face a daunting task: every ban on same sex marriage that voters have seen has succeeded, and every measure to legalize it through a popular vote has failed. Support for the measure is strong from some religious groups. In particular, the Catholic Church in Minnesota has spearheaded a massive fundraising effort in support of the amendment while asking its clergy to refrain from publicly expressing dissent or personal reservations. A November Star Tribune Poll revealed that 48 percent of Minnesotans supported the amendment and 43 percent oppose it. The poll also revealed stark demographic divides, with older voters, Republicans, and rural voters much more supportive than younger voters, Democrats, and urban voters. Hoppe feels lucky that neither he, his partner, nor their two young children have gone through harrowing instances of discrimination described by others. “But it’s unnerving to rely on luck every day, and I am afraid that the amendment could embolden people who otherwise remain silent,” he said with concern apparent on his face. Murphy struck a different tone, expressing confidence that Minnesota voters can turn the issue around and bring new life to a movement in support of gay marriage rights. “We will be the first state in the nation to do this, with your help,” Murphy said. Hoppe asked supporters to share personal stories and perspectives on the issue as the best possible way to effect change. “If you just tell someone they’re wrong, they will never listen,” he said. “It is tempting to characterize and stereotype the other side, but when you listen to someone else, they listen to you, and you have the beginnings of a constructive conversation.” MPIRG is planning to campaign against the amendment until the election, and those seeking to get involved are invited to attend MPIRG’s Community Action Training on April 3 at 7 p.m. in the Smail Gallery in Olin Rice. refresh –>