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On the Minnesota Marriage Amendment

Although my academic schedule kept me out of the action for this past election, like most queer Minnesotans I watched the results with a mixture of anxiousness and anticipation and felt deeply proud when we became the first state to reject one of these divisive ballot initiatives.  I’m especially in awe of the organizers, volunteers, and donors who pulled off a smart, well-focused campaign.  A few thoughts linger with me in the aftermath, which I’ll try to share here as fully as possible.

I remember when my home state of Michigan passed one of these amendments, after I had already moved away.  Seeing the returns and the wide margin by which it passed felt like a shocking punch to the stomach– something that left me unsettled on several return visits afterward because I couldn’t help but wonder– who would be part of that 60% that voted to permanently deny same-sex couples equal marriage rights? On those trips I would quietly look around at strangers, at family members during reunions, at fellow football game attendees, and absorb that they had likely voted with the majority. It felt creepy– undermining my confidence in a number of ways and making it difficult to spend time in the state for very long.

Fast forward to the present, when yesterday my partner and I walked our dog through the neighborhood and noted several lingering orange “Vote No” signs lining the blocks. I wondered, how would today feel if Minnesota had followed the 31 other states to put LGBT marriage rights to a popular vote? Together we couldn’t quite come up with the words that would describe our feelings if this place– where we met, bought a home, and started building our careers– had made discrimination a constitutional mandate. There is still a lot of work ahead to get same-sex marriage legalized here, and I have lots of opinions on the other “unfinished” work of building a community that raises and nurtures healthier queer people from youth through old age. Today though, on a sunny afternoon with pleasant fall shadows hanging around me, what lingers is the sensation of a close brush with something deeper and more jarring, a narrow escape from the perilous prospect of waking up to question whether this home was still truly a home.

 

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About Michael Lee

South Minneapolis queer writer, researcher, educator, and social change enthusiast. Currently researching and writing a biography of the late journalist Randy Shilts.

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