Members of the staff of Lutherans Concerned/North America, Lutheran pastors, a Bishop's Associate, other faith leaders from many traditions, and others crowded into the Minnesota capitol building on Friday afternoon to voice their opposition to a proposed state constitutional amendment that seeks to ban marriage between same-gender couples. If passed by the state senate and house, the proposed amendment would be placed on the November 2012 election ballot.
The event was a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee of the Minnesota State Senate. State Republicans are working quickly to introduce a bill that would define marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman,” declaring that only such unions shall be “valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota.” The committee voted along strict party lines (8-4) to send the proposal to the senate.
Hundreds of folks came to the hearing, both supporters of the discriminatory amendment and those in opposition (those opposed were far more numerous). Both sides presented testimony. Among those opposed to the amendment, many made the point that denying committed couples the security and legal protections of marriage hurts couples, children, and families. The proposed amendment would throw the state into a divisive and polarizing battle that would not benefit a single family. Indeed, passing such a measure would make it harder for families to take care of and be responsible for each other. As one father of an adult lesbian daughter put it, “Why isn’t my daughter’s family worthy of protection and support?”
Testimony also included a message from Rev. David Wangaard, Bishop’s Associate for the Minneapolis Area Synod, who spoke on behalf of the office of the bishop. Rev. Wangaard emphasized that in this time of financial crisis, bringing a divisive bill such as this is counterproductive and is a distraction to the important work that needs to be done. Instead of adding constitutional restrictions, we need to work to enhance civil rights and find ways to care for the most vulnerable in our midst.
During the hearing, Senator Barb Goodwin, a member of the judiciary committee, offered two changes, each of which she hoped would be deemed a “friendly amendment.” The first was to add the words “for life,” as in "Only a union of one man and one woman FOR LIFE shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota" (essentially banning divorce). That change was voted down. The second change Goodwin proposed would have altered the amendment to read "Only ONE union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota" (essentially allowing for divorce but banning remarriage). This too was voted down.
After these attempts to change the language failed, Goodwin said that what the vote proved, and what those two [failed] amendments proved, is that this is not an issue of how sacred marriage is. It’s an issue of discrimination.
Almost all of the speakers who testified in favor of the discriminatory amendment were faith leaders. This underscores the continuing need for Lutherans and other people of faith to speak up for our values: the centrality of family, right relationships, love, mutuality, protection, the benefits to society of committed relationships, and the diversity of successful families within church and society.
See also the story in the Star Tribune, including photos.