House Bill H.R.1054 was up for a vote in the Civil Law Committee on Tuesday. On that day the committee took testimony from any and all citizens who wanted to share their views on the bill. Many presented their own views and some introduced themselves as representatives for a group.
I don’t often watch political committee discussions (but when I do…), but this is a topic of great interest. H.R.1054 is a bill that, if passed by the MN Congress, would give same-sex couples the right to get married in Minnesota! I also wanted to watch because August Berkshire was scheduled to speak on behalf of Minnesota Atheists. August live-Facebooked the event. Fellow MN Atheist members Greg Laden and Stephanie Zvan also blogged about the committee meeting.
Once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what arguments could really be put forth (with a straight face – ooo…double entendre totally intended!) by opponents to same-sex marriage, this is a great meeting to watch. But really…it’s two videos with a total run time of over three hours. Luckily for you, I’ve made a handy-dandy excel file with all of the relevant information about the testimonies! It can be used on its own as a TL;DR summary of the arguments, but I’m envisioning that a user might scroll through the names, groups, positions or argument summaries and then watch the ones that look interesting. I’ve included hyperlinks to each speaker and each talk is approximately two minutes long. Clicking the image will take you to a public google document.
Pssst…I’m really proud of this. You should totes check it out.
There were a total of 45 witnesses. Of these, 27% opposed the bill and 73% were proponents. Nine out the 45 identified themselves as representing religious institutions, and of those, there were only two speaking in opposition; the other seven were there in support of marriage equality.
Below I have summarized some of the talks from both sides that I found unique, important or memorable. I have named the speaker, followed by at which session at at what time they spoke. I have included the videos of the morning and evening sessions at the bottom of this article so that you may reference and listen to the talks in their entirety, should you wish.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Morning, 41:10) – Chair of Carlson Companies. She made a business case for passing same-sex marriage. There is a pressure on businesses to support equality to remain competitive and able to recruit the best and brightest to Minnesota. She argued that the next generation of leaders – the young people of MN – are not going to be attracted to discriminatory business environments. Russell Stanford (1:04:32) represented the MN Inter-Faculty Organization and made a similar business case for marriage. He asked the committee what married couple from NY or Iowa would want to come to Minnesota if their marriage was no longer recognized and their benefits would no longer be equal?
Doug Donnelly (Morning, 1:02:11) – I found Pastor Donnelly to be very eloquent. His arguments were based on equality and separation of church and state; he argues that everyone has the right to interpret the scriptures for themselves, but that not allowing gay marriage codifies a specific interpretation of scripture into our law. He was also the only witness to mention the 515 state laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian people.
David Patton (Morning, 1:20:48) – Mr. Patton gave a humorous and moving testimonial as a son of two gay dads. Like other children of same-sex couples who spoke, he was there to show the world that he turned out great, that his family is the same as straight families. What was memorable for me was when he spoke about not knowing – not being told – that one of his dads, George, was his dad until he was older. He asked the committee to pass the pill in support of MN children who are wondering if their family is a “real” family.
Lynne Osterman (Morning, 1:28:23) – I found this to be one of the more heart-string-tugging talks of the morning. Lynne Osterman is a past one-term representative from New Hope. She served as a Republican because of her support for smaller government. She breaks down a bit as she talks about casting a “politically expedient vote” in favor of DOMA, and how she’s regretted it ever since. She talks about how she’s had to live with that decision, and pleads with the committee members to vote their conscious before their party line, and not to place too much weight on the polls when it comes to voting on issues of equality.
Neal Thao (Evening, 25:17) – Neal Thao introduced himself as a Hmong community leader. He told the committee that the Hmong residents of Minnesota, as recent immigrants, understand minority disadvantage. He said that the Hmong community is accepting of same-sex marriage, and that the bill would make sure we don’t leave Hmong immigrant LGBT people behind.
August Berkshire (Evening, 29:44) – As a representative of Minnesota Atheists, August reminded the committee that religious belief should have no place in their vote, that the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law, that there is no secular reason for denying marriage equality that stands up to scrutiny. He shared a personal story about he and his partner of 17 years have made the decision to not marry until marriage is available to everyone. See Greg Laden’s write-up for a the full transcript of August’s talk.
Simon Radecki (Evening, 31:58) – Simon was raised by two moms. He spoke about the inequity of his non-biological mother having to carry papers with her every day so that she could be recognized as his mom. He said that he was fortunate to be raised in an accepting and supportive community, but that he recognized that other kids of same-sex parents might not have that. He urged the committee to pass the bill for children who might not live in such supportive communities.
Richard Painter (Evening, 38:57) – A professor at the University of MN Law school, married to a wife, has three kids and a Republican. Founded Republicans United For Freedom, a group of individuals committed to Republican ideals. He quoted Dick Cheney’s “Freedom means freedom for everyone”. He made the argument that who you marry is none of the government’s business. Argued that freedom of religion should include the freedom to celebrate same-sex marriage.
Kirsten Lindbloom (Evening, 41:25) – For those of you who came for the emotional, heart-wrenching story, I present Kirsten Lindbloom. She and her partner were joined in a public commitment ceremony five years ago. They hoped that someday they could be legally married in Minnesota. Three years ago Kirsten’s wife was diagnosed with an aggressive, incurable cancer, and their dream of marriage disappeared. But her wife has survived for longer than predicted, and with the current political climate, Kirsten says “Our dream is back on the table.” She addressed the committee, “You have the power to make Jenny’s dream come true, and that’s something that I so wish I had. What a gift you hold.”
*passes the Kleenex*
Grace Evans (Morning, 29:26) – 11 yo who read a script that her dad wrote. None of “her” arguments were compelling – or even unique. If the script had been delivered by the original author (her adult parent or parents, presumably), I would have had a hard time suppressing a yawn and tired eye-roll. But this is fun: On the third viewing of the video I noticed that the man accompanying Grace, is reading the script over her shoulder and mouthing along as Grace is speaking! FFS. This testimony, this training of a young bigot-to-be, made me feel incredibly angry and sad and helpless.
Mike Fry (Morning, 54:59) - Bigot and living proof that we need to stop spending money on trying to pass discriminatory constitutional amendments and spend more on science and reproductive health education. Gawker picked this story up and snarked it so hard. The basic argument is this: If you let gay men get married, they’ll have gay sex, which causes AIDs because gay sperm=AIDS, and then they’ll all go on Medicaid and cost us taxpayers lots of money. Also, if I speak loudly about the physical acts of penis in vagina and anus sex you’ll take me more seriously. Also, women have a magic barrier that prevents them from absorbing AIDS sperm. Oh, and also, gay men get boils all over their bodies. Because AIDS.
FACE. FUCKING. PALM. Thanks for your testimony, Mike. Thank you for showcasing the kind of wackaloon beliefs that are standing between us and marriage equality.
Professor Robert Oscar Lopez (Morning, 1:23:10) – What a fucking disappointment. First of all, I wasn’t expecting another opponent so late in the morning. I thought we had run out of opponents and were listening to happy or moving pro-marriage testimonies for the rest of the session. And it started out so well! Professor Lopez described living 40 years in LGBT community, being raised by two moms, identifying as bisexual and being a Humanities scholar. And then he said this: “I know that couples like my mother and her partner deserve to have their love recognized, but I also know, as a child in that situation, that there is something missing when you have a parent of one sex that is not there.”
Lopez told the committee that he and Doug Mainwaring had started a group called “Site for Ethical Family Alternatives” to bring together LGBT voices to “have the debate that has not taken place yet in the United States”. Doug Mainwaring had testified earlier in the morning (44:06). In addition to the “everyone needs a mom and a dad” argument, Mainwaring threw out that the media is pushing gay marriage as part of a larger conspiracy to make us more receptive to government intrusion into our lives. As I mentioned about Mike Fry – thanks for the crazy! It makes gay marriage seem that much more sane.
But back to Lopez. According to him we need to slow down in our rush to legalize same-sex marriage so that we have time to hear from more childrens’ rights activists on issues such as whether children have a right to both a mother and a father. Then Lopez went off on his own special brand of special – stating that LGBT activists believe that they’re entitled to property rights to children, that there are social justice concerns that we haven’t considered such as the potential for international exploitation through surrogacy contracts with poor women in the third world. And 13th amendment violations – specifically buying and selling of children – to meet a market demand for same-sex parents. He asked if we are willing to transform children from free citizens entrusted to those who conceive them to the property of adults who acquire them. Also – what if things get worse for the LGBT community with marriage – what if there’s more social inequity? And what if we inadvertently cause more divorce among fragile mixed-orientation marriages? Also AIDS? We JUST. DON’T. KNOW. We need more time to answer these questions!
Annie Kopacek (Evening, 14:26) – Annie is the founder of Students for Marriage at St. Thomas. Her argument centered around the idea that if the state strips gender from its definition of marriage, we are telling her that (and I have to go to a direct quote here because I don’t really understand her point) “within the context of marriage my unique gift of self as a woman, as a potential wife and mother, have no difference than that of a man. It is because I am a woman that marriage cannot and should not be deemed genderless. I implore you to not use public policy to regard my feminine gift or another’s masculine gift as interchangeable. Do not esteem my role as insignificant.”
Grrrr…what is it with the same sex marriage = genderless marriage? What is that? Do you know what this sounds like to me? “I won’t know who I am if I can’t put myself in this little box that society has made for me.” But I’m not a philosopher or a student of feminist theory and I know there’s someone who’s got a better understanding of this type of argument than me. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any resources or interpretations for how to understand this argument so I can better refute it!
Brett Stevens (Evening, 19:41) Brett has been partnered with Randy for 15 years, and they want and deserve same rights as straight couples.But Brett has thrown in the towel. He sees the writing on the wall. The people don’t want same-sex marriage, this bill will never pass, so he says it’s time for a compromise – we need someone to propose a civil union bill. We can’t wait for marriage, but civil union legislation might stand a chance.
This one makes me sad and angry. I really don’t think the anti-marriage proponents are steaming because we’re “co-opting” “their” word. I think they’re throwing up roadblocks to equality because they don’t want gay people to be happy, accepted members of society because Ew. Gay. AIDS. Different. God. Bigots aren’t going to support gay marriage just because start calling it civil union. Did you forget the AIDS-sperm?
C’mon Brett! Hang in there, buddy! We’re gonna win this one!
- Equality supports a healthy society and happy individuals
- Happy, secure marriages – regardless of gender of those involved – produce happy, healthy, successful children.
- Good for Business, Recruitment
- Separation of Church and State
- Pleas for legislators to vote their conscious, not their party line
- Conscientious objection to unequal marriage laws.
- Religious arguments – same-sex marriage is against god, immoral, against the bible.
- Everyone deserves, maybe even a right, to a mother and a father.
- Gender roles are important to marriage for instilling stuff into kids that will make them into good adults.
- Mixed-gender parents are better at raising happy, successful kids than same-gender parents.
- Mixed-sexual orientation parents are better at raising happy, successful kids than same-sexual orientation parents.
- Arguments to tradition – it’s not what I grew up with, it’s not what our country was founded on.
- The people who made the babyare the best parents to raise the child. (I just learned that in anti-marriage rhetoric this is called “sexual complementarity” – probably created for the purpose of sounding sciencey)
- Gay marriage would cause a breakdown of society, family, fragile straight marriages, gender roles.
- Gay=AIDS. Married gays=more people on Medicare=costs taxpayers money
- Gay marriage will lead to exploitation in the name of meeting a market demand for children