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Apr 11 2012

Asking for His Rights

As I’ve noted before, Minnesotans United for All Families is the primary group reaching out to voters on the marriage discrimination amendment on the ballot in November. At least, it’s the primary group not trying to enforce discrimination.

Jeremy Yoder of Denim and Tweed moved to Minnesota last spring as a biology post doc, just in time to get hit with this. Minneapolis is one of the most gay-friendly cities in the U.S., so he didn’t expect that less than a year later, he would be making phone calls asking people not to change their constitution so that his right to marry would be out of reach.

The strategy, informed by an intense—possibly somewhat frantic—burst of messaging research in the wake of 29 consecutive defeats at the ballot box, represents a significant change from those previous, unsuccessful campaigns. In the past, campaigns for same-sex marriage have emphasized the abstract values of equality and fairness; this time around, the plan is to get personal. Ask about specific people the voter knows who will be affected by the amendment. Ask her how she’d feel if that person could get married. Tell this stranger on the other end of the phone line about yourself.

“Well, ma’am, I’m making calls tonight because I’m gay, and this amendment would affect me personally. I’d like to get married some day. To find someone to settle down with and build a life together. And to stand up in front of friends and family and make that commitment to each other.”

I’ve met Jeremy. We had dinner together, not here in the state where we both live, but at the ScienceOnline conference a little over a year ago before he moved. I like Jeremy, but even if he were a stranger to me, I would find it difficult to read what he’s putting himself through in order, not to secure his rights, as defeat of this amendment still won’t make same-sex marriage legal here, but to simply keep them from slipping further away.

Even with the conversation guide and a good deal of preparation, I fully expected that I was signing up for an evening of having, over and over, the kind of conversation I’ve successfully avoided having with a good half of my extended family.

In practice, it hasn’t been like that, exactly. Minnesotans are generally too polite, for one thing. For another, it’s funny how much easier it is to let absurd and offensive statements wash over you when the only thought in your head is “be polite,” and you can always jump ahead to the closing question, hang up, and never talk to that asshole again.

But Minnesotan voters are entirely able to be astonishingly, densely homophobic, even when they’re being Minnesota nice.

There was the lady who said she had lots of gay and lesbian friends, but she wasn’t quite ready to support full marriage equality yet, because she thought that if we could get married, “it might become cool,” and then too many attractive, intelligent folks might never reproduce!

There was the gentleman who told me that the Bible had “ordained” me to be a eunuch, and who noted his concerns about a (completely fictitious, do I need to say?) proposed bill to legalize bestiality.

There was the woman who agreed with me on every point from the basic unfairness of the question to my own desire for a wedded commitment, but said she’d probably vote for the amendment because her church told her to.

There was the lady who responded to my telephonic coming-out by asking if I didn’t want to have children? And when I said that I might, but that lots of same-sex couples have kids, and I’d rather adopt anyway as there are plenty of children in the world who need parents, she noted that—in the hypothetical straight marriage she was planning for me—I could always adopt after I’d made a few biological kids. To which I asked how many children did she want to saddle me with, here? —and she laughed.

I don’t know how she’ll vote, but somehow her laughter was encouraging.

I can’t think of a better argument for keeping the rights of citizens out of the hands of voters than this. Please, go read the whole thing. Then start having these conversations where you can, because they shouldn’t be left just to Jeremy and the people for whom the outcome matters most.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Steve

    Just shows that ultimately most people are too stupid to be allowed to vote

  2. 2
    julian

    I can’t think of a better argument for keeping the rights of citizens out of the hands of voters than this.

    The problem being that no matter what we do the decision always ends up in the hands of a group who doesn’t necessarily represent anyone’s best interest except their own.

    That said, yeah, putting altering the founding legal document of a state up to a popular vote is bullshit. Anyone who’s that in love with what the people want should be removed from any position of authority or influence. The people can eat it. There are more important things out there than honoring their prejudices or trying to pretty them up.

  3. 3
    margaretwhitestone

    But the rights of anti-gay people would be violated if they weren’t allowed to vote on gay people’s rights. I mean, we put the Civil Rights Act and Women’s Suffrage to a popular vote, right? Ooops, never mind.

  4. 4
    Forbidden Snowflake

    The last time I argued about gay rights, a few people got called things like “authoritarian” and “moron”. “Be polite” – quite a feat to pull off!

  5. 5
    Butch Pansy

    The voters don’t even vote in their own best interests, much less those of anyone else: delusional lunacy is rampant; it’s the new ‘common sense.’

  6. 6
    Drivebyposter

    More rights?
    Who the fuck wants that? It won’t stop terrorists or immigrants. If you want gay marriage to be a universal thing in America you have to tell people it will protect them from scary shit they’ve barely thought about.

    What scares you?
    Sharks? Gays repel sharks.
    Ghosts? Gays eat ghosts.
    Dying? Gays marriage makes you immortal

    Voila! Gay rights.

    /sarcasm

    (ugh. I wish I didn’t feel like this would actually work)

  7. 7
    justsomeguy

    @Steve:

    The notion that people are “allowed” to vote is the reason we’ve got a voter ID amendment to stop in November, in addition to this marriage nonsense. Morons or not, everybody has the *right* to vote for whatever reasons they wish, and it’d be monstrous for any group to try to restrict that right of others… like in the aforementioned voter ID amendment.

    Incidentally, this will probably be an unusual election in Minnesota in that we’ll be paying as much attention, if not more, to constitutional amendments as we will to actual candidates.

  8. 8
    Skip White

    “Ghosts? Gays eat ghosts.”

    Does this mean that Pac-Man’s relationship with Ms. Pac-Man is just a cover?

  9. 9
    Gregory in Seattle

    I cannot add anything to your post, so let me direct you to this: a few years ago, Marriage Equality Ireland put out a brilliant commercial that illustrates the absurdity of putting marriage up to a public vote. View it here.

  10. 10
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh, dear. I find the supplication, the deferential asking-for-rights revolting. I can’t get past that. And I can’t believe we’re ever going to have civil rights stand on firm ground until we’re willing to confront the real problem as forcefully and as long as necessary—human rights are not subject to popular vote.

  11. 11
    TX_secular

    #6 I think you are on to something here. This PR plan could work…

  12. 12
    Forbidden Snowflake

    This is OT, but: Stephanie, do you have an opinion about this bit of research that’s been making the rounds lately?

    In four studies, the researchers looked at the discrepancies between what people say about their sexual orientation and their implicit sexual orientation based on a reaction-time test.

    I’m suspicious of this research because it seems to confirm a bit of “folk wisdom”, and also because I don’t know how solid this reaction-time method is. So, if you have something to say about it, that would be great.

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