Farmer-legislator for marriage equality

Minnesota Capitol

On November 6, 2012, Maine people voted for marriage equality. The same day voters in Maryland and Washington did the same, as Minnesotans rejected a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a woman and a man.

Today the Minnesota House of Representatives is debating and voting on a bill for marriage equality.

It is expected to pass and Minnesota’s Senate will be voting on Monday. Governor Dayton has said he would sign the bill. Assuming this occurs, Minnesota would become the 12th U.S. state with marriage equality. Gay and lesbian couples can also marry in the District of Columbia.

A Minnesota farmer-legislator recently went from undecided to supporting the bill. This is what he wrote to his constituents [Source]:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will be taking up a bill to legalize same sex marriage in Minnesota. I know this has been and continues to be an emotional issue for both sides of the debate. First and foremost, the bill (HF 1054), deals explicitly with civil marriage as defined in Minnesota Statute:

Marriage, so far as its validity in laws in concerned, is a civil contract between a man and a woman two persons, to which the consent of the parties, capable in law of contracting, is essential.

The bill does not force a religious institution to marry two individuals of the same sex. Furthermore, language has been added to the bill to offer additional comfort that no religious institution will be forced to act in violation of its own religious beliefs.

Throughout this legislative session, many constituents, on both sides of the issue, have provided faith based rationale(s) in support of their position(s). Who is right? Whose faith, interpretation, or religion is correct?

Our federal and state Constitutions protect and embrace religious autonomy and the freedom to exercise our own religious beliefs or lack thereof; all with equal protection under the law. We have a separation of church and state in this country for a reason.

As constituents have voiced their concerns about allowing same sex couples to marry, I have respectfully asked how this proposed change in the law would impact that individual’s life. In addition, I have asked what would be a legal, rational argument that would allow the continued discrimination of one group of citizens over another. While I do not question any individuals’ motivations or the sincerity of their views, the arguments I have received against same sex marriage thus far have been primarily biblical in nature or simply due to the fact that the person does not like people who are gay or lesbian. Neither of which are substantive arguments when deciding law in a secular institution that grants equal protection to all citizens under the law.

Frequently the issue of children is brought up as a reason to prohibit same sex marriage. The non-partisan American Academy of Pediatrics does not support this position. Their report, “Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian [i],” complied from more than 30 years of data, rather recommends that civil marriage for same-gender couples become legal for the benefit of children. They state, “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports civil marriage for same-gender couples – as well as full adoption and foster care rights for all parents, regardless of sexual orientation – as the best way to guarantee benefits and security for their children.”

Not a single person opposed to same sex marriage has stated how allowing two individuals of the same sex to marry will impact either his or her own marriage or life in a legitimate manner. Simply stating, “I don’t like it” is not a compelling argument to continue to allow the denial of happiness and equal rights to same sex couples.

The arguments have also been presented that being gay or lesbian is a lifestyle choice. It is not. Nobody chooses to be gay or lesbian; you either are or you aren’t. I never chose to be heterosexual. I just am.

GLBT rights are the civil rights issue of today. This is no different than the yesteryear movements to expand the rights of women, workers, and minorities. History has always looked favorably upon those who have stood on the side of expanded rights and freedoms.

Last summer, I married the person I love. I didn’t marry Marnie because she was a person I could live with; I married her because she was a person I couldn’t live without. We found each other and we knew we had something special.

How do I in good conscience not support that same right for all Minnesotans? A right that most of us take for granted. Marriage is about love. Marriage is about commitment. Marriage is about equality. Marriage is about finding the person that you cannot live without.

With that said, I will be voting to legalize same sex marriage in Minnesota.

Best regards,
Andrew Falk

Rep. Andrew Falk

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.