Last week, prior to the passage of marriage equality in the Minnesota State Senate, guest blogger Jody Swanson, a member of PFLAG Mankato in Minnesota, talked about the exciting moment when the vote took place on the floor of the State House...and all the work that led there:
Thirty or so Minnesotans gather around the TV screen oscillating between hushed listening silences, to rowdy raucousness. All in attendance had a dog in this fight. Their family’s or friend’s family future was at stake: LGBT center student regulars, same-sex couples, progressive faculty, and allies. Hope and fear were palatable. These marriage equality supporters gathered on May 9, 2013 at the Jim Chalgren LGBT Center at Minnesota State University – Mankato to watch the entire marriage equity bill debate and vote by the Minnesota House of Representatives. Many present had worked for years, decades fighting for respect and dignity.
My family, along with all of Minnesota, has been on a yearlong roller coaster ride. Last summer, I was anguished and disgusted to learn my ‘Minnesota Nice’, had a November 2012 proposed state constitutional amendment vote, which if successful would eliminate any possibility of same-sex marriage. We already had a state law banning gay marriage. As a mother of two perfect children one of whom is gay, I wondered how could my state turn its back on my family and countless other wonderful LGBT citizens? This ballot maneuver felt like my state was thrusting and twisting a knife in my back. With this awareness, I soon came to believe that LGBT rights were the civil rights issue of my generation. Somebody, a lot of somebody’s had to try to do something.
Thankfully they, we did do something over and over again. In my family’s case, it started with an in-person visit from a PFLAG National Field Manager direct from Washington DC to our small south central Minnesota PFLAG Mankato chapter. That wakeup call got small balls rolling one at a time, each volunteer encouraging the next volunteer to do more with leadership from Minnesotans United. Miraculously, the never ending phone banking, door knocking, yard signs, letters to the editor, fundraising and most of all connecting conversations sharing our family stories made the difference. Unlike 30 previous states, on November 6, 2012 Minnesota voters 53% to 47% rejected the constitutional amendment stopping cold the discrimination momentum in its tracks.
In December our equality team turned offense, time to fight for dignity and same-sex marriage rights with a new Minnesota state law. Countless times friendly and foe state politicians were contacted including in person visits, phone calls, letters, emails and social media. I even carried a picture of my amazing gay son to show my purpose, my skin in this game. Plus, I would share that his brother, a military member, was fighting for all of our rights, including his brothers when deployed. Our side lobbied legislators in St. Paul, plus door knocked their constituents, asking them to contact their Representative to voice support for same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
So there we were on Thursday, thirty or so gathered at a university’s LGBT center, intensely watching the Minnesota House of Representatives, speaker after speaker explain why they will be or will not be voting for the civil marriage bill. Each speech evokes raw emotions in our room. From thrilling excitement when Representative Clark Johnson calls out our ‘Jessica & Maria’ as one of his many reasons for his yes vote, to muffled tears of sadness and joy. When the vote was called, the room’s collective held breath erupted with elation to the TV update: Passage 75 for, 59 against. Cheers, tears, hugs and more tears no longer stifled.
Now, with the passage in the house and Monday's passage in the State Senate, a new day, a new era is born in Minnesota. We are all more equal, free and respected. Two persons will be able to get married in Minnesota, including two men or two women. Thank you to each legislator who voted YES. Thank you to Governor Dayton for your leadership. Thank you to each Minnesota volunteer and equality fight leader. We made history, good history for Minnesota while standing on the shoulders of those who have sacrificed and gone before us. My family and I thank you.
Now, team tighten those seatbelts there are 38 other states long overdue for marriage equality.