Just say NO in November

“It is downright humiliating,” an old lesbian friend of mine from Catholic school told me the other day, about the fight she and the rest of us find ourselves in over the gay marriage amendment that comes up for vote in November. She’s a mother of two who has been with her partner for 25 years, and she’s proud of her family, but she wants to remain anonymous in this column because she knows how much hate there is out there, and how distorted things can get.

“I cried when I got the [anti-gay marriage] DVD the Catholic Church sent out in the mail, then I broke it into a bunch of pieces and mailed it, with a check, to the group of Catholics who were trying to suggest that maybe the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the sick should receive our attention and money instead of spending $400,000 mailing a piece of anti-gay propaganda around the state.

“I know that there are many wonderful Catholics who oppose the amendment. I just wish they would go on strike or something.”

Or something.

In the New York Times over the weekend, Maureen Dowd asked, “How can the warm, nurturing Catholic Church of my youth now be represented in the public arena by uncharitable nasties like [Newt] Gingrich and Rick Santorum?” My friend, along with the get-out-the-NO-vote group Minnesotans United For All Families (mnunited.org) has a similar spiritual beef when it comes to the Nov. 6 ballot that will ask voters, “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

The question itself is appalling. The answer, for anyone with a conscience, has to be no. The answer for my friend’s kids, aged 16 and 18?

“My kids think the amendment is stupid and evil,” she said. “They also love to mock mainstream religion — I think partly because of their ages and partly because of the way LGBT peeps have been treated by conservative religious groups. In Minnesota I was able to adopt them. They have two legal parents. I can’t imagine life without them, and we adore them. We are trying to help them understand that not all religious people are mean and nasty and horrible. Ironic, isn’t it?”

Heroic, even.

“But who wants to be a role model, a poster couple? Not us,” she said, before getting on with a full day’s worth of work, school and family activities. “The fact that it feels like a lot of this stuff is none of the voters’ business pisses me off. Why should I have to ask permission for what is freely granted to many other people?

“I don’t really give a [rip] if we can ever get a marriage license. I’d really just like for everyone to have the same benefits and responsibilities, and that includes single people. Let’s not make marriage the Gold Calf of Goodness. Let’s make caring for each other — in all the ways that manifests — the thing that gets rewarded. What I really want is justice and equality.

“That being said, 25 years of caring for each other, caring for each others’ extended families, staying together through the downs as well as the ups, doing mountains of housework with and for each other, bearing and adopting two amazing children together, plugging in as a team to countless community efforts, celebrating dozens of holidays and birthdays with each other, our children, and extended families, promising to be faithful to each other, being together through deaths and major life changes in and around our family: sounds like marriage and family to me.”

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.