SSL Campaign Manager Dan Furmansky: Stop the Bullying in Minnesota
Until 9th grade, I lived in the suburbs of Minneapolis — a young, gay kid mired in shame. The shame didn’t come from within. It was implanted in me through societal homophobia, reinforced by the veil of silence in the media around homosexuality, and hammered home by classmates who tormented me, yelled “faggot” down the hallways, tripped me and pushed me into lockers.
Suddenly, I have deja vu.
I feel like the Republican majority in the MN legislature pushing to ban marriage between same-sex couples in the state constitution are those bullies from school. Now that Republicans have finally taken control of both houses of the legislature, they are moving forward an anti-gay agenda. Their first goal? Writing discrimination into a document that is designed, in part, to protect and extend minority rights. Who knows what’s next?
Not all Republicans support this amendment. But those that oppose it aren’t loud enough.
The marriage amendment has already been passed on party line votes in committees, and appears headed for fast-track votes by the full House and Senate soon, maybe next week. If the amendment passes the legislature, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who supports marriage equality, has no opportunity to veto it. It will go to the ballot for approval by the voters.
I don’t live in Minnesota anymore, but I have family and friends that do. And it breaks my heart that my friends’ kids, and my own nieces, will be subjected to awful, homophobic public discourse…just the kind of discourse that always surrounds these ballot measure campaigns.
These amendments have been found by social scientists to enact an emotional toll on LGBT people. In other states where these amendments have passed, most notably California, the rhetoric employed in television ads by the proponents of the constitutional amendments is shameful. Drawing on decades upon decades of historical associations of gay people with predators, the proponents’ ads usually talk about how we have to make sure our children aren’t “taught gay marriage” in school.
Denying marriage in itself is a public health issue that should make those who oppose marriage equality think twice. But subjecting LGBT people to an emotionally damaging, bullying referendum campaign that etches the denial into the state constitution should make proponents downright ashamed.
Sadly, it doesn’t.
So far, mega-corp. Target is refusing to come out against the amendment, as is the state’s chamber of commerce. Target pumped big money into electing Republicans last November. Gregg Steinhafel, the CEO of Target Corp. should feel the heat. You can call Target Corp. at 612-304-6073.
Thankfully, there are heroes fighting this amendment, including the state’s LGBT civil rights group, OutFront Minnesota, people of faith, and legislators like Representative Steve Simon (DFL Hopkins/St. Louis Park). Rep. Simon’s comments earlier this week to his colleagues during a voting session on the amendment have gone viral.
“How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?” he asks.
Urge your family and friends in Minnesota to communicate with their legislators against the amendment. They can do so here:
Minnesota has never had a staunchly anti-gay reputation. In fact, a sexual orientation anti-discrimination law passed in 1993. Through its state Human Rights Act, Minnesota is also one of only eight states that protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. And thus far, Minnesotans have avoided writing discrimination into its state constitution.
If the measure passes the legislature, I believe Minnesota could be the first state to reject one of these anti-LGBT constitutional amendments. But LGBT people in Minnesota shouldn’t have to be subjected to a popularity vote on their rights, accompanied by harmful rhetoric. At a time when the media has taken notice of the epidemic of young LGBT kids taking their lives, it’s clear that Minnesota should be doing better by its young people.
I thankfully survived my childhood growing up gay in Minnesota, but not without a lot of pain along the way. I was silent to the bullying as a kid. Never again. Please join me in speaking out against the bullying. Stand on the side of love with LGBT people in Minnesota and everywhere.