Tag Archives: Politics

Back from the Dead (with thoughts on the failure to include LGBT couples in immigration reform)

22 May

I started writing this as a comment to a friend’s post on facebook, but then it got really long and then I thought, “hey, didn’t I I used to have a blog where I ranted about stuff?” So here are my thoughts about the disappointment of many that binational couples were not included in the immigration reform bill that just passed the Senate judiciary committee.

There is no explanation but a political one for the failure of the Uniting American Families Act.  There aren’t the votes for UAFA.  There are 100 senators, and not enough of them will support the provision. In the Republican House its chances are somewhere in the negative range.  That may not be a reality we like, but it is an undeniable reality.  The question the movement for Commonsense Immigration Reform was/is faced with is: Are we ok with halting the bill altogether, with sacrificing the legalization of 11 million people to make a point? We may not like the choices, but that is what they are right now. Either accept a bill without UAFA, which its proponents say will help approximately 40,000 people, or insist on it and stop any chance of legalization for 11 million people. My answer: I support UAFA but I’m not willing to sacrifice 11 million for those 40,000. Call me a sellout.  I’m sure this blogger would. She writes about yesterday’s disappointing news:

I completely and totally reject this decision due to the fact that my husband will have a permanent residency appointment in the very near future because of our heterosexual privilege.

In my world, there’s no excuse, no manner to explain away what happened yesterday. I will not simply tweet out a consolatory message, or rue the fact that sacrifices had to be made.

And those so-called immigrant activists? Those same ones who dare to tell you binational same-sex couples that, “Once the reform becomes law, we’ll come back for the you,” or say to you with earnest eyes, “Don’t worry – The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be struck down next month.”

Those same activists who supposedly believe that, “No human being is illegal?”

I’ll gladly help you slap each and every one of those so-called immigration activists clear across the face.

In Love and Solidarity Always,


PS And all of you supposedly pro-immigrant organizations, groups and individuals that are sending out congratulatory messages, all of you in the online and offline community who were chanting proudly after the vote at the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting yesterday, I offer this to you:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Martin Niemöller

We are right to fight for UAFA, and author’s blunt words come from real conviction. But support for UAFA is not the question.  Read the whole blog post and you’ll see there is a lot of passion, there is no answer to the question above.  Should the whole bill go down because UAFA is not in it?  I’m not dismissive of her passion but her need to mock and deride those who dared celebrate committee passage of the full bill, that’s a little much.  And the over-used Niemoller quote? Puh-leaze.

The fight for immigration reform began in the 80s after the last one still did not create a sane system to keep people from coming to the country and having to live in the shadows. The Uniting American Families Act is legislation was first introduced in 2000 but has had no real support until very recently. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, it just means that there has not been the kind of movement behind of UAFA that has finally put CIR on the table.

And then there are the really annoying gay blogger/activists, like John Aravosis of americablog.com, who in a tweetrage about the withdrawal of the Leahy Amendment, had this to say:

That tells you all you need to know about some of the loudest voices on this subject right now. When Aravosis pulls out the “we’re not law-breakers” line (he’s done it before) he is reminding everyone this bill is only helping those horrible “illegals.” It’s disgusting. Worse, elsewhere he has mocked the idea that legalizing 11 million people does help gay people because many of those 11 million are gay. That’s whose leading the charge among the prominent gay politicos on calling those of us not willing to sacrifice 11 million sellouts.

Aravosis. Mean Gay.

Aravosis. Mean Gay.

The fight for marriage equality has made enormous strides in recent years. I support it and, in fact, I rearranged my life in the last two years to defeat the horrible Minnesota amendment and then pass equality. As a gay man who is a citizen of this country I must acknowledge a fact that I hope others can ponder: the cause of gay rights, especially regarding marriage, have progressed far more rapidly than any progress made for immigrants living in shadows. In fact, things have only gotten worse, dramatically worse.

Of course I support the goals of UAFA. But the political reality of vote-counting says it won’t happen and insistence on it will sink a bill that does a lot of the things we do need to have happen, including legalizing millions.  In politics sometimes the choices are stark.  In this case, I’ll take the imperfect and move on to fight another day.

[I’m taking a bit of a leave from work. After suffering through a chronic neck connection all winter, a couple weeks ago I threw out my back. “What were you doing?”, I was asked by an ER nurse. “Putting on socks. While being old.”  With my body telling me I need a rest, I’m taking a much needed long vacation.  One thing I do hope to do on that leave is, now that I have re-discovered it, is write about the world and stuff on this blog.]

We Don’t Put Post-It Notes in Our Constitution: Defeat Voter Restriction

5 Nov

In the final stretch, poll after poll show that the more Minnesotans take a look at the Voter Restriction Amendment, the more they’re saying send this mess back to the Legislature.

Helping the momentum to defeat this poorly written, expensive amendment, 65 newspapers across the Minnesota and across the ideological spectrum have editorialized against the Amendment. Watch Our Vote Our Future’s closing ad:

We can defeat this.  The wind is at our backs, something no one would have predicted a few short months ago.  Then, the Common Wisdom in Minnesota–even in some progressive circles–was that this was a fight we could not win.  Polls showed large numbers of Minnesotans favored the concept of Voter ID.

The Bard of Big Lake: Mary Kiffmeyer’s “Artfully Written” Amendment

Some on the left have expressed frustration with Our Vote Our Future’s message of “send it back.” They complain that it accepts the premises that legislators acted in good faith when they put this on the ballot and that we need new legislation at all.  These people are wrong, and the swing in public opinion should tell us so.  You see, you don’t have to agree that all Voter ID legislation is wrong to agree that this particular amendment is a mess.  That has been the broad message, big-tent message — delivered by prominent figures from three parties and a broad swath of local elected officials — that has swayed people that what seemed at first common sense was written by people who had none.

In a debate, the Bard of Big Lake assured us her Amendment was “artfully written.” She forgot to add, “And don’t I look stunning tonight?” (Photo, Capitol Chatter)

How badly is it written?  Watch this MPR debate exchange between Representative Steve Simon and amendment author Representative Mary Kiffmeyer about the meaning of the “substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification” requirements that would be placed on absentee voters (e.g, military serving abroad). After describing the language she wrote as “artfully written,” the Bard of Big Lake then says, well, a lot. There are many words – nouns and verbs and such, but not a whole lot of — what’s the word I’m looking for? — meaning.

Representative Simon puts a period at the end of Rep. Kiffmeyer’s ramble: “What a mess.”  He probably doesn’t like Ezra Pound either.

The reality is that Representative Kiffmeyer and Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority –the only two surrogates the pro-Amendment forces seem to be able to find– have in debate after debate skirted every question about the cost, complications and consequences of their Amendment by essentially saying “we’ll figure that out later.”

Well, our Constitution is not a bookmark.  We don’t put Post-It Notes in our Constitution with reminders to “fix this later.”  Minnesotans understand this and are, increasingly, saying: Send. It. Back.

How You can Help Today and Tomorrow:

1. Persuasion. Arm yourself with knowledge.  Watch this video by Minnesota Public Radio yourself and maybe play it for undecided family members and friends:

Then ask yourself them: Should we be putting something with that many question marks in permanent ink, in our Constitution? Don’t fall into the temptation to argue the merits of their fraud argument. It has no merit, but that’s what they want us to be talking about.  The costs, consequences, and complications of this poorly written Amendment are all we need to focus on.

2. We need to fill Get Out the Vote Phone and Door Shifts.

I’m told people were pouring in to the offices of TakeAction Minnesota and ISAIAH this weekend. They are flipping voters to our side at an astounding rate.  Join them.  Take Action lists its GOTV shifts here.

ISAIAH, the coalition of over 100 congregations, has been making thousands of phone calls.  Want to talk to other people of faith?  Information on how to volunteer with them is here.

If you live in the Fifth Congressional District, Congressman Ellison’s campaign has been fighting this fight from Day One and can also use some GOTV help today and tomorrow.  Information can be found here.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Silent on Voter Restriction

2 Nov

I attended last night’s MPR debate about Minnesota’s upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, which featured two national figures on each side of the issue as well as two local leaders.  Representing the No Side: Bishop Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and Sarah Walker, a leader in restorative criminal justice and Board Member of Minnesotans United for All Families. Representing the Yes side were Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage and the Reverend Jerry McAfee of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

Across the river from the MPR debate, the Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church was packed for an interfaith celebration and sendoff for the Vote No GOTV weekend. (Photo tweeted by Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak)

While the two men of the cloth disagreed a lot over scripture, I’d like to focus this post instead on one of the political arguments made by Reverend Jerry McAfee of Minneapolis, one he has made in public before – that the progressive political infrastructure has been singularly focused on marriage, to the detriment of the campaign to defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment. McAfee has received a lot of press attention by MPR and other press outlets for his complaint that the DFL was not doing enough to defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment, a top priority for the African American community.

I have been in meetings with Reverend McAfee where I heard –and agreed with–his frustration with the relative lack of attention that was being paid to the Voter Restriction Amendment.  I disagreed with his analysis of the why, but I could relate to the frustration many of us felt earlier this year that there was a collective failure on the part of the progressive left to take the Voter Restriction Amendment seriously.  While the Reverend sought to blame “the DFL,” I thought the problem was broader.  While the progressive infrastructure had, in the past two years, mobilized to keep “Right to Work” and other budget amendments from getting on the ballot, polls showing big support for Voter ID in concept were met with a collective shrug of “we can’t win that.”

That has changed. Polls show the more Minnesotans learn about the Voter Restriction Amendment, the less they like it.  And the resources have finally begun to flow.  We are outspending proponents in the final week and have a broad coalition  of faith, labor and community groups educating voters about this Amendment and flipping people in droves to the position that, however you feel about Voter ID, we can agree that this particular legislation was poorly written and will be expensive, and therefore  we need to Send It Back to the legislature. DFL sample ballots include the Vote No on Voter Restriction position printed on it, and the party’s field operation, together with the work of TakeAction and the faith-based coalition ISAIAH, has had tens of thousands of conversations with voters. These have been at the core of the shifting poll numbers.

Although at the MPR debate last night the Reverend noted the same complaint about the relative lack of attention to Voter Restriction, it’s not his failure to note that progress has been made that I found frustrating. The change that stood out to me was that, since those first stories the Reverend McAfee has, as he was last night, become a prominent voice for the Vote Yes on the Marriage Amendment campaign.

Reverend McAfee, angry at those who focused solely on marriage, now stands with an Archbishop solely focused on marriage.

How can the same person who blasted the DFL for its supposed indifference to Voter ID now stand with Archbishop Nienstedt of the Catholic Church, probably the single largest institution in the state of Minnesota that is actively silent on the Voter Restriction Amendment?  And I don’t mean “stand with” figuratively.  The Reverend has a featured speaker along with the Archbishop when Nienstedt rallied religious leaders in mid-September to Vote Yes.

And yet, under the iron fist of an Archbishop pathologically obsessed with same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church has changed its position on Voter ID from opposed to neutral – neutral on this issue of extreme importance to communities of color.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Singularly Focused on Marriage

Before engaging the Catholic Church’s sleight of hand when it comes to the Voter Restriction Amendment, let us recall that not all of the faithful are silent on an amendment that will keep many poor and elderly citizens from voting.  In mid-October, the Minnesota Council of Churches announced its opposition to the Voter Restriction Amendment:

In a written statement, the Council’s President, St. Paul Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Bishop Peter Rogness said “the fundamental issue that brings us here is our concern for those for whom this step – which seems easy for most in the mainstream – becomes a barrier to participating in the shaping of our public life together.”

It was an issue of “defending the right of the last, lost and least to vote and therefore oppose the amendment,” he added.

On the day of the Council of Churches announcement, Our Vote Our Future, the campaign to defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment, sent out a press release listing among the faith groups opposing the Amendment the the Minnesota Catholic Conference. They then sent a corrected press release stating,  “In fact, the Minnesota Catholic Conference changed its position a year after originally opposing it.  They are no longer taking any position on this amendment.”

Wait, what? Changed its position?  Back when Voter ID legislation was being debated at the Capitol, the “Catholic Spirit” reported it opposition:

Opponents, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, say the requirement would disenfranchise the elderly, college students and minorities.

Katie Conlin, interim social concerns director for MCC, told The Catholic Spirit: “The reality is that a lot of people don’t have photo identification. And while these bills would create a free government-issued ID for people . . . that doesn’t address the difficulty in getting that ID for some folks.

“You would still have to have some sort of supporting documentation in order to get the ID,” Conlin explained. “Let’s say you’re a woman who got married and had a name change. Then you would have to have your birth certificate, your marriage license and proof of your current residence.

“Then you’d have to get to wherever it is that the ID is going to be issued,” she added. “It would affect anyone with limited access to transportation.”

(See State Catholic conference opposes voter ID bills _ TheCatholicSpirit)

So, what happened?  Sources tell me the Catholic Conference position changed after a meeting they had with Dan McGrath, the one-man-show at Minnesota Majority running the effort to pass the Voter Restriction Amendment.  I asked Our Vote Our Future if they had been invited to address the Catholic Conference as well. Communications Director Eric Fought had this to say:

There was a sudden shift in the position of the Minnesota Catholic Conference earlier this year, as they moved from being opposed to the Voter Restriction Amendment to ‘neutral.’ Recently, Mr. Adkins told a reporter covering the race that he offered a meeting with the bishops to a representative of our campaign in September.

No such offer was received. We most certainly would have welcomed the opportunity to address the bishops about the many costs and consequences of the Voter Restriction Amendment. There is no doubt, Minnesota Catholics will be greatly affected by this poorly written amendment.

Where is the Outrage?

Can we imagine what it might be like if, from every Catholic pulpit, priests were giving sermons against the Voter Restriction Amendment, they way they are being instructed to speak for the marriage amendment? Might the polls showing an evenly split electorate on Voter Restriction tip in the direction of a No Vote?

That is a good question for Reverend McAfee. As I said, I agreed with his frustration about the lack of resources going to the effort to defeat Voter Restriction even as I disagreed with this analysis of why it was happening.  For him, this was about the DFL privileging a wealthier gay (and white) constituency.  To me, there were some benign reasons and some deeply problematic.  First, marriage was put on the ballot two years before the election, giving the campaign time to mount an enormous effort, and the broad, multi-partisan coalition to defeat that amendment required that campaign–early on and when no other amendment was on the ballot– to decide to be singularly focused on the marriage amendment.

More problematic, however, there was also a collective failure of the progressive (not just party) infrastructure to take on the Voter Restriction fight early on.  With a few exceptions, for example, unions were very slow to take on this fight.  After Tuesday, when I believe we will edge out a narrow victory and defeat the amendment, we should look at the representation of organizations representing people of color at the tables that make decisions about what fights to take on and which to sit out.

But, I must ask again the Reverend McAfee — how can someone so upset about the perceived singular focus of the left on marriage now stand with the Vote Yes campaign?  If there is a Vote Yes GOTV operation out of New Salem Baptist Church, it is presumably funded by the “Minnesotans for Marriage” campaign. That campaign, as has been widely reported, is being funded almost single-handedly by Archbishop Nienstedt and the Catholic Church, the single most powerful institution in the state of Minnesota that is doing what Reverend McAfee accused the DFL of doing — being singularly focused on marriage, to the detriment of the efforts to defeat Voter Restriction.

Will the Reverend, before Tuesday, denounce the Archdiocese silence on Voter Restriction?

People of Faith Call to Action

If you are a Catholic, you might want to call the  Archdiocese and ask the Church why it is silent on a ballot question that, if passed, will restrict the representation of the poor and dispossessed in the electorate.  Even better, volunteer with other people of faith to phone bank this weekend. You can do so through ISAIAH.

If you belong to a Church that is turning you out to Vote Yes on Marriage and No on Voter ID, ask your Pastor – why are we standing with the Catholic Church, which is hurting our effort to defeat Voter Restriction? Then, VOLUNTEER.


I just heard from a Catholic friend, parishioner at St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, who called the Archdiocese to ask why the Church was only speaking out on one Amendment.  The person who answered the phone first claimed the Catholic Conference had spoken out against the Voter ID Amendment [they had, then changed their minds]. After my friend pointed out that the Catholic Conference’s website is filled with marriage amendment missives alone, this person told my friend that “there is no evidence” that communities of color will be disenfranchised if the Amendment passes. Sounds like this “neutral” person has some talking points from Minnesota Majority.

In reality, according to the League of Women Voters:

Approximately 11% of the voting population does not carry a photo ID that meets these rigid requirements. The percentage is higher among certain groups: the elderly (18%), younger adults (18%), minorities (25% of African-Americans) and people who are low-income (15%).

Looks the Archdiocese needs to update its talking points.

Minnesotans for Marriage: Nazi Reference Out of Context, “His Point Was Absolutely Correct”

24 Oct

If you caught any of the local news last night, you likely saw Minnesotans for Marriage tying themselves up into some very unnatural positions.

M4M Twisted into Many Unnatural Positions Explaining Pastor Brandon’s Forbidden Love for Inappropriate Metaphors.

Knot One. M4M can’t seem to explain how, on the one hand, in the words of campaigns spokeswoman Autumn Levya, “we were not aware that he was drawing the comparison that he did” while simultaneously acknowledging that Pastor Brandon made the inflammatory presentation – powerpoint and all! – at multiple campaign events with senior staff present, sometimes introducing the Lover of Metaphors, and sometimes following him — but never denouncing him.

Spokeswoman for M4M: “His Point Was Absolutely Correct”

Knot two. M4M can’t distance themselves from the Pastor too much: From the Fox Report:

A spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage said the reference was taken out of context or misunderstood, explaining that Brandon was trying to say that critics of gay marriage could be silenced if the amendment fails.

“He’s apologized and he’s apologized on behalf of the campaign. His point was absolutely correct; he was just using a poor analogy and an incorrect choice of words to make his religious liberties point,” Autumn Leva said. “He’s been instructed to no longer compare the loss of religious freedoms to Hitler and Nazi Germany.”

Got that? The video shows the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors challenging Pastor Brandon, him fighting back, and M4M calls it all a “poor analogy and an incorrect choice of words.”

Poor M4M.  The  Unbearable Victimhood of Vote Yes is such a heavy burden, they just can’t help themselves. As I’ve discussed before, even though they’re the ones asking Minnesota voters to privilege their scriptural readings in our secular Constitution, even though their argument rests on the offensive declaration that only families with a mother and a father are real families, and even though they can call their opponents all atheists and now Nazis — they’re the victims here!

Knot Three.  What to do with the Good Reverend, Pastor Brandon?  M4M claims the Pastor has “publicly” apologized for his comments but the WCCO report says “they can’t provide a recording or any proof of that.”

None of the television reports were able to reach Pastor Brandon for comment.

You’d think M4M could have helped with that.  He is, after all – despite all of this, amazingly–still their employee.


You can see full reports on Fox 9,  on Kare 11, and on WCCO.

Minnesotans for Marriage: We’re not calling our opponents Nazis, but…

23 Oct

Minnesotans for Marriage Communications Director Chuck Darrell didn’t feel the need to apologize when, some weeks ago, he suggested only atheists would vote no on the amendment to limit the freedom to marry.

But last night’s news had even the perennial victims at Minnesotans for Marriage declaring, “Oops!”  It seems their Director of Faith Outreach was caught one more than one occasion and at official campaign events using Nazi imagery to describe the battle they are in.  The Star Tribune reports:

For gays in the Third Reich, Nazism was not a metaphor.

The group pushing the marriage amendment apologized Monday after its director of church outreach told at least a couple small groups that the other side is using techniques similar to Adolph Hitler.

“I apologize that it wandered off in this direction,” said Andy Parrish, deputy campaign manager for Minnesota for Marriage. “It’s clearly not what we are talking about in this campaign.”

At an event recorded by the rival campaign, the Rev. Brad Brandon tells a group in Brainerd that Hitler suppressed religious freedom and that religious freedom is at stake in the marriage fight.

“We’re not saying that one side or the other is equal to Adolph Hitler and the atrocities that were committed in Nazi Germany,” Brandon said during a presentation that included a huge picture of the German ruler. “What we are simply saying is that when a totalitarian dictator takes place and wants to suppress the voice of a group…. they use certain tactics.”

The headline of the Star Tribune Article says M4M “apologizes” for using the Nazi accusations. M4M’s Andy Parrish told the Star Tribune that Reverend Brandon’s discussion of Hitler “is not representative about how we feel about the other side. Pastor Brandon is going to get back on message that kids need a mom and a dad and why marriage is worth preserving.”

Notice what Mr. Parrish didn’t say?  He did not say the outrageous Reverend Brandon was fired.  He just said, Oops! – Promise not to do it again!

Sorry, Mr. Parrish, you don’t get to say “oops” when these statements were made more than once at official Minnesotans for Marriage events.

You don’t get to say “oops” when other members of your senior staff leadership were at these meetings, saw the Reverend put in his POWERPOINT and say these things and did not call him out on the spot.  That suggests the Good Reverend was not so much “off message” has he was caught delivering one particular message to supporters your campaign thinks are open to hearing it.

Oops doesn’t cut it when you keep this man on your staff.

Oops doesn’t cut it when you should have known better.  You see, Reverend Brandon has quite the past.  Sally Jo Sorensen has helpfully compiled the Reverend’s Greatest Hits over at Bluestem Prairie, which include his wild accusation that gay rights activists were teaching children how to masturbate in the Capitol Rotunda. Oh yes, he’s that crazy.

And Oops doesn’t cut it when this fits a broader pattern of the M4M campaign saying outrageous things about the Vote No campaign and then hiding behind a dramatic whine.  Unbearable Victimhood of Vote Yes indeed.

Stay tuned.  This story is developing.

Minnesotans for Marriage Bear False Witness

19 Oct

Minnesotans United’s Pastor Grant Stevensen: M4M is “bearing false witness.

So we knew it was coming. Minnesotans (for Meddling in Other People’s) Marriage released a new ad scarily warning of the dire consequences of defeating the Amendment to Limit the Freedom to Marry. Those who oppose same-sex marriage will be persecuted! You know, that Unbearable Victimhood of Vote Yes.

You can see M4M’s ad here and on a television near you.

Thursday evening WCCO’s Pat Kessler did a “Reality Check” and found that “Amendment Ad Makes Questionable Claims.”

Questionable? Try downright false.

Minnesotans United for All Families hit back hard, holding a press conference featuring Pastor Grant Stevensen, who said Minnesotans for Marriage was “bearing false witness” in its efforts to persuade and confuse Minnesota voters. The campaign has helpfully (and very quickly) provided the following fact-check, which I’m printing here in its entirety. Take a look, to help you with those conversations we need to defeat this thing:

A new ad from Minnesota for Marriage, entitled, “Not Live and Let Live,” makes inaccurate claims about the impact of the hurtful, freedom-limiting marriage amendment. This ad is an intentional attempt to mislead Minnesotans into a “yes” vote on this amendment, citing claims that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Minnesotans know better. What this amendment is really about is limiting a basic freedom for some Minnesotans – the freedom to marry – just because of who they are. Marriage is about love, commitment and responsibility, and gay and lesbian couples want to marry for similar reasons to anyone else. None of us would want to be told it’s illegal to marry the person we love, but that’s exactly what this amendment would do. This amendment mixes religion and politics in our state constitution, and represents too much intrusion.


TRANSCRIPT: When same-sex marriage has been imposed elsewhere, it has not been live and let live. People who believe marriage is one man and one woman have faced consequences. Small businesses fined, individuals fired, charities closed down, churches sued. Same-sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day. We can prevent this from happening here by voting yes on the marriage protection amendment.


Minnesota for Marriage – “Not Live and Let Live”

“When same-sex marriage has been imposed elsewhere, it has not been live and let live.”

FACT: None of the claims in this ad have anything to do with the impact of this amendment or with marriage. A No vote on this amendment will not legalize same-sex marriage. There is already a law on the books in Minnesota prohibiting it.

In cases where people have acted in violation of state or federal anti-discrimination laws they have faced charges or civil complaints, as they would in any state – regardless of that state’s marriage laws.


“People who believe marriage is one man and one woman have faced consequences.”

FACT: None of the stories presented in this ad are as as a result of the belief in marriage for same-sex couples. Those who have acted in violation of state or federal anti-discrimination laws have faced charges as they would in any state – regardless of that state’s marriage laws.


“Small businesses fined, (Image of Wildflower Inn, Vermont)

FACT: The claim regarding the Wildflower Inn in Vermont is intentionally misleading. This occurrence has nothing to do with marriage laws in Vermont. A complaint regarding this incident was filed under the Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which states that public businesses and entities cannot discriminate or deny service based on race, sexual orientation, gender or any number of other factors.


“Individuals fired,”

FACT: While amendment proponents suggest that Mr. Goddard was fired for his public opposition to same-sex marriage, Mr. Goddard himself has admitted that it is entirely possible that his statement about marriage had nothing to do with his termination.

In fact, the network from which he was fired released a statement regarding their dismissal of Goddard that made no mention of his views on same-sex marriage. The statement read, “. Goddard was a freelance contractor and in recent weeks it had become clear that he is not the right for for our organization.”

“charities closed down”

FACT: The legalization of marriage for same-sex couples in Washington, D.C. had nothing to do with Catholic Charities decision to discontinue adoptions. Catholic Charities chose to discontinue their adoption program rather than obey long-standing non-discrimination laws.

Similar claims have been made about the Catholic Charities of Boston regarding their decision to end adoption services in 2006. The chair of their board at that time recently came forward to clarify that they stopped adoption services because the Vatican demanded it, saying, “People are suggesting that it had something to do with the [same-sex marriage law] that allowed for marriage equality. That’s not correct.”

“churches sued.”

FACT: This claim has nothing to do with the issue at hand here in Minnesota, and passing or defeating this amendment has nothing to do with such an accusation. Minnesota’s laws already protect people from discrimination and protect religious institutions from lawsuits.

“Same-sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day.”

FACT: This case has nothing to do with passing or defeating this amendment. This amendment is about limiting the freedom to marry here in Minnesota and
it has nothing to do with educational policy here or in Massachusetts. Additionally, we know that children are taught their most important values at home, from their families, not in schools.

The materials that were in the school were simply books that displayed the various forms that a loving family could take. The book featured gay parents, lesbian parents and single parents but made no reference to marriage in any way. The books were not required reading as a part of the Massachusetts educational curriculum.


“We can prevent this from happening here by voting yes on the marriage protection amendment.“

FACT: A yes vote on this amendment will do nothing to change existing state or federal anti-discrimination, employment or education policy laws. The MN Human Rights Act has prohibited discrimination by businesses and public entities based on sexual orientation since 1993.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Church asks Catholics to Pay for Ads to Scare Parents

25 Sep

From this morning’s Star Tribune we learn that All the Archbishop’s Men have taken the “unusual” step of sending a mailing to more than 400,000 Catholics in Minnesota.  In Catholics asked to pay for marriage vote ads,Rose French reports:

All the Archbishops Men: Help us Pay for Ads to Scare Your Kids (Photo Star Tribune)

In trying to reach every Catholic household in Minnesota, the mailing is “unusual” compared to Catholics’ roles in marriage amendment campaigns in other states, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron (Ohio), who studies politics and religion.

“I can’t think of anything as direct and as explicit,” Green said. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it legally, but certainly I’m sure it’s very controversial. Catholic leaders have been involved in fundraising. I know of examples where they have reached out to parishioners, but I’ve never heard of anything quite this comprehensive.”

Besides asking Catholics to make contributions, bishops are encouraging them to vote yes on the amendment, according to a letter sent to priests and church administrators last week from Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in the state.

The mailing “gives Catholics an opportunity to support the passage of the amendment and asks them to send a contribution to where it will be most effective,” Adkins’ letter states. In an interview Monday, Adkins said the mailing is being coordinated and paid for by his group and will cost close to $100,000.

Church helps finance drive

So far this year, Catholic leadership has been one of the biggest financial backers of pro-amendment forces, directing close to $500,000 in support of it, according to campaign finance records. The Minnesota Catholic Conference said it reported raising $750,000 in 2011. Much of that came in a $650,000 contribution from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which tapped its investments to help fund the marriage amendment campaign.

So what will Catholics be paying for?

I imagine Catholics thinking about heeding His Grace’s plea for cash may want to consider what they’ll be paying for.

I’ve been saying for a while that the Vote Yes will, in the final weeks of the campaign, seek to scare the bejesus out of parents. Preying on parent’s fears that they will lose control over the values their children learn, past campaigns (all run by the same campaign manager) have painted a world where children are taught about boys marrying boys before they are ready to grasp these adult concepts.  Probably the most famous of these past, successful attempts was California’s Prop 8 “Princess” ad:

This ad was incredibly effective for two reasons – it put a seed of doubt with soft supporters of the No on Prop 8 campaign, especially families with young children.  Secondly, the No on 8’s in-fighting and lack of resources meant that the ad was on the air for two weeks without a response, a deadly combination.

In Minnesota, we will have the resources to respond, but we should all think hard about the first problem, about the uncertainty the Vote on Yes campaign will seek to insert into parents’ minds about a world where they’ve lost control over what their kids learn and when they learn it.

What they’ve successfully accomplished in California, Maine, and elsewhere, is feed parental anxiety about uncomfortable subjects and helps people forget that kids learning about love in the home is not the equivalent of having a birds and the bees conversation before you’re ready.  As Kim and John, the couple in Minnesotans United for All Families’ first TV ad, say, “In our daughter’s world, her normal is so different than ours.  It didn’t faze her at all.”

One of my favorite viral youtube videos is of a kid learning about a gay couple being married:

“So that means you love each other.”  Exactly – something so simple even a kid can understand (and explain) it.

Minnesotans for Marriage: Using Kids to Argue that Voting No Will Hurt Kids

Yesterday I asked, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Vote Yes side – which is seeking to “protect” kids, went out of the way to put children in the middle of the very political debate our state is having right now?  I reprinted the letter of Jenny, a mother whose four year-old came home from a Christian daycare with a Vote Yes letter tucked away in his backpack.

Today we have Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie has done us the favor of showing us two of Greater Minnesota examples of Vote Yes Kid Fearmongering.  Check out the entire post at Bluestem, it’s really good. She cites a story in the Faribault Daily News, Faribault Catholic school posts signs supporting marriage amendment:

City ordinance doesn’t address it, state law allows it, and the IRS doesn’t appear to restrict it.

The First Amendment, however, protects it.

But that isn’t keeping a number of locals from voicing their disapproval for signs that showed up in front of a Catholic grade school over the weekend. The Faribault Daily News Facebook page has been flooded with messages from one side or the other since one resident posed the question Sunday evening.

Liz Fritz saw the signs on her way to work Saturday morning. The signs, placed in front of Divine Mercy Catholic School on Third Avenue, promote voting for a statewide ballot question that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The signs tell people to “vote yes” and that marriage is between “one man, one woman.”

“I felt betrayed,” Fritz said. “I went to school there and I know how hard it is to be a third-grader and be told you’re supposed to marry a man but know that that’s not what you’re feeling or thinking. I know how it feels to be different and it just hurts to know the kids going there now are going to be even more reminded of that.”

But Associate Pastor and Assistant School Principal the Rev. Erik Lundgren says the decision to put up the signs wasn’t one taken lightly. A group of local marriage amendment supporters from the parish asked to put the signs up and, since the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has pushed for support of the campaign, school and church officials said yes.

“Being a Catholic is really about living out your faith and we take political decisions very seriously,” Lundgren said. “We are asked to not just shape ourselves but shape the world.”

Fritz’s post spurred debate — by Monday morning more than 50 people had given their input on the issue on the paper’s Facebook page. The discussion jumped from whether or not the signs should be allowed in front of the school to opinions on religion and the ballot question itself.

More Kid Fearmongering From Dear Dear State Representative Mary Franson

State Representative Mary Franson, last seen making national headlines when she compared the poor to wild animals, is Sorensen’s second example of Kid Fearmongering. After Bluestem posted video of a debate between Franson and her opponent last Sunday, the City Pages’ Aaron Rupar wrote about how our dear State Representative declared homosexuality not to be normal, and now national websites like Raw Story and Think Progress have picked up on the story. In Franson: Homosexuality isn’t normal, Rupar writes of Franson’s fear for children in the classroom:

Franson also expressed concern that if the marriage amendment is defeated, Minnesota’s public schools might follow Massachusetts’ alleged practice of indoctrinating students to (gasp!) accept homosexuality as
something normal. . . .

At this point we might be reminded that All the Archbishop’s Men and Minnesotans for Marriage insist that marriage must be held sacred.  The Archdiocese has said marriage must be “protected” because:

In civil society, marriage’s essential public purpose is about providing kids with what they need — both a mom and a dad. Marriage is a reality that unites a man and a woman and any children born from their union. While there are many types of loving relationships, marriage is more.

At this point we might also ponder the fact that Representative Franson is twice divorced–and, therefore, a single mom.  Of course, ever so good at playing the victim, I’m sure she and her chorus will howl, “That’s bullying! How dare you bring her family into this?”

Only we are allowed to judge others, to call some marriages more and some less.

Hell hath no fury like a hypocrite called out.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Using 4 year-olds’ Backpacks to Deliver a Vote Yes Message

24 Sep

While Archbishop Nienstedt and the Catholic Church are the principal funders of the Vote Yes campaign to limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota, we know other denominations are happy to follow his lead, insisting on putting their particular reading of Scripture and feelings about same-sex marriage into our State’s Constitution.

We also know from past successful efforts to pass similar amendments that our opponents use a deliberate strategy of creating fear among parents about what their kids will learn in school if the amendment doesn’t pass.  They prey on parent’s fears that kids will learn about difficult topics in school rather than in the home, that they won’t be able to control how their children learn values.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Can they Agree to Not Use Children as Political Footballs and Unwilling Messengers? (Photo Pioneer Press)

So it would seem a little hypocritical of a Vote Yes campaign to move a political message through four year-olds, don’t you think?  Well that seems to be exactly what is happening in at least one Minnesota pre-school.

On Facebook this morning, I saw a beautiful letter written by Jenny, a mother angry that her four year-old son was sent home from pre-school with what is essentially campaign material for the effort to pass an amendment to Minnesota’s Constitution to limit the freedom to marry. Jenny’s facebook post, reprinted here with her permission, read:

My 4 year-old son came home from preschool with a ‘Vote Yes’ letter in his backpack. This was my response to this horrifying letter.

Dear Pastor [redacted]
I am writing this letter to you to inform you why I will be removing my child, _____, from your church’s preschool. I was shocked and appalled that you used my 4-year old’s backpack to send a message home defending the Minnesota Marriage amendment, and I cannot justify financially contributing to a community that is going to use that money against people I love and people my son loves. You see, Pastor ___, my 4-year old is loved and cherished by his two lesbian aunts that have known him and supported him since his birth. My sister and her partner have been in a committed relationship for over 12 years, and ____  will have the wonderful opportunity to support them at their wedding next October.

I am aware that you are well within your rights to promote this teaching about marriage, just like the vast majority of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues in Minnesota are well within their rights to promote inclusivity, embrace God’s diverse creation, and support loving and committed couples by working to defeat this marriage amendment. But you need to know that no matter how many letters you write you will never be able to convince my son that his aunts and their future children are not a real family, for his experience contradicts everything that you wrote in your letter.

Your letter was offensive to an entire group of people that are not seeking to change marriage, they are seeking to join marriage—the lifelong commitment that strengthens all societies. Not only was your letter offensive, but it severely lacked any coherent argument. Claiming to not tell people how to vote and then claiming to simply present God’s view on the matter is lazy rhetoric that does not persuade thinking people. Your selective inattention to the biblical text was frightening. If we are going to talk about the biblical view(s) of marriage, then at least be honest and address polygamy, Levirate marriage, Deuteronomic law of the captive bride, bride prices, dowries, etc. Certainly using a passage about outlawing divorce (Matt 19) and claiming that it is evidence that God does not support same-sex marriage is disingenuous at best and insulting at worst. Did you really think that no one would look it up? But even more than all of this, using the backpacks of 4-year olds to spread your personal, unsophisticated, and selective interpretation of the Bible, in a vain attempt to amend the constitution to exclude human beings who are created in the image of God, is totally and completely inappropriate.

Jenny: “This does not belong in my 4 year-old’s backpack.”

I encourage you to revisit the overwhelming message of acceptance and love found in the vast majority of the Old Testament and the New Testament—passages that champion inclusiveness (Acts 10; Gen 1:26) not exclusiveness. You are not alone; pastors and priests throughout history have used the Bible to justify all sorts of things that we now find appalling like the subordination of women, slavery, and segregation. Simply claiming to be on God’s side does not mean that you are. Blaise Pascal reminds us that “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” I would ask that you pray about Christ’s message of loving God and loving one’s neighbor and ask yourself how you are loving your LGBT neighbors and their families.

Whether you realize it or not, your words stifle an ongoing struggle for equal rights—a struggle that will not only eventually be won, but one that will soon be understood and remembered as an extension of other successful “against the current” movements, such as the fight for women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. I am not expecting to change your mind with this letter, and as I have said earlier, you are well within your right as a religious institution to spread and teach your faith. Although I find your message offensive, appalling, and ultimately non-Christian, I believe in your constitutional right to express it. I am voting NO on this amendment in November because I don’t only support your freedom, I support my sister’s freedom too.

Jenny [redacted]

P.S. I will also be sending this letter to the parents in ___’s class so that they know why[he] will no longer be attending ___ pre-school.

I’ve redacted the child’s and Pastor’s names and used only the mother’s first name.  Knowing M4M’s propensity to play the victim,I don’t want her or this blog to be accused of inciting animosity toward the pastor, even though his poor judgment I hope leads more parents from that school to have respectful but direct conversations with him.

There’s nothing I can add to Jenny’s eloquent letter, except perhaps some questions to our opponents: Can we all agree that using children as unwitting political footballs is unwise?  If we believe that children should learn their values in the home, should that not be true of all sides on this volatile issue in this political season?

In short, can you promise not to stuff propaganda into 4 year-olds’ backpacks?

The Coming Civil Unions Ruse: Will The Archbishop Bear False Witness?

23 Sep

Sunday’s release of the Star Tribune poll tells us what we’ve known for a long time about the effort to defeat the amendment to limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota: it’s going to be close.  49% support the amendment, 47% oppose, within the margin of error of the poll and in recount territory.

However, the numbers that should frighten supporters of the Vote No campaign are those to a second question the Minnesota Poll asked, “If same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, do you support or oppose allowing civil unions that would grant the same legal status as marriage?” Respondents said:

SUPPORT 68% 65% 72% 79% 55% 66% 50% 91%
OPPOSE 23% 25% 20% 11% 34% 27% 41% 4%
UNDECIDED 9% 10% 8% 10% 11% 6% 9% 5%

Why should it worry us?  After all, it shows that Minnesotans across the political spectrum are fair-minded and want people to share in equality.  Even 50% of respondents planning to vote “yes” agreed with civil unions, as did 55% of Republicans.

The reason it should worry us because we know from other states that our opponents use this strong belief in fairness as a ruse to fool voters into thinking they can both be fair and preserve the sanctity of marriage.

Don’t believe me?  Check out this ad, one of the closing arguments the Vote Yes on Question 1 Campaign used in the 2009 referendum that put a ban on same-sex marriage into that state’s Constitution:

All the Archbishop’s Men on Civil Unions: Not So Much

Why is this on the ballot? Was Minnesota clamoring for it? No. Ideology was behind it, and money was behind it. And the same forces that aligned to put this ban on same-sex marriage into our Constitution are just as adamantly opposed to civil unions.

The ideology of cultural conservatives in the Republican Party led Tim Pawlenty to reject contracts for state employees that included domestic partner benefits, something the Administration of Jesse Ventura had enacted.  When he vetoed a bill that would have granted same-sex partners the right to make end-of-life decisions for their loved ones, Governor Pawlenty said: “Marriage — defined as between a man and woman — should remain elevated in our society at a special level, as it traditionally has been. I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage. Accordingly, I am opposed to this bill.”

Have those Republicans changed?  Not a bit.  If anything, they are more conservative, having run the few moderates in their party out on a rail. We’ve seen this in recent contract negotiations with state employees, where the same cultural conservatives in the GOP who put the amendment on the ballot howled at the prospect of the Dayton Administration offering domestic partner benefits in negotiations.

And now on to money—who was behind the effort to put the amendment on the ballot and who is funding the campaign to win its passage?  As has been reported by MPR and others, “The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is the single largest contributor to the vote yes campaign.”

So what does the Most Reverend John Neinstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis—and the principal funder of the Vote Yes campaign—think of civil unions?  According to a question and answer helpfully provided by the Archdiocese website, he’s not too fond of those either:

Some people say that they are not for redefining marriage, but they have no problem with civil unions. Is there a distinction between the two, with regard to the Church’s position?

Civil unions, in my opinion, are just a smoke screen for so-called same-sex “marriage.” In fact, so-called “marriage equality” groups have already begun opposing them, and in states where civil unions exist, such as in Washington, New Jersey and California, the movement to redefine marriage simply accelerates. There are ways of ensuring that people of the same gender have access to certain public services or privileges without redefining marriage. By contrast, civil unions are, if you will, the nose of the camel coming under the tent

All the Archbishop’s Men Also Oppose Civil Unions (Photo, Pioneer Press)

He who fears camels poking under tents will oppose civil unions with the same viciousness that his divided his flock in Minnesota.  And, if the Minnesotans for Marriage campaign puts out an ad such as the one we saw in Maine, the His Grace and His Flock will have funded a lie.

Minnesotans are Fair: Keep Those Conversations Going

If you know fair-minded people who might be among those represented by the poll numbers above – people uncomfortable with the idea of “marriage” but ok with civil unions – talk to them.  Tell them that a yes vote will make civil unions politically difficult to impossible for years to come.  There will be little political will to move a rights agenda, and, as we saw above, the same forces that put this on the ballot will only be emboldened and oppose those moves as well.

The silver lining in all of this:  What these poll numbers show us is that Minnesotans are conflicted.  These are not people blinded by bigotry.  They want to do the right thing, and that is a good thing.  Our job between now and November is to let people know that there is only one vote to make for fairness, and that is a No Vote.


“Minnesotans for Marriage” and The Unbearable Victimhood of Vote Yes

21 Sep

After writing about Minnesotans for Marriage’s (1) calling Vote No Supporters Atheists and then (2) declaring themselves victims, I came across a story about lawn signs of Vote No supporters being vandalized in Bloomington.

One of the homeowners whose sign was vandalized said, “I know there are good folks on the other side of this issue.  And it’s unfortunate that a few wreck it for them.”

Vote No Sign in Bloomington (Photo by CBS)

Asked for comment, the Kate Brickman of Minnesotans United for All Families said, “Whether you’re supporting the amendment or opposing the amendment, we should really make sure we’re engaging in respectful conversations and not resort to any actions like this.”

Nice, right?  We might disagree, but let’s respect each other.

So what did the other side say?  Chuck Darrell — the same M4M spokesman who declared Vote No supporters godless heathens, said: “Hopefully the signs are the least of our causalities out there.”

Seriously, Chuck? Casualties?  First, you call run-of-the-mill voter outreach “stalking,” and now you’re suggesting — what?  That our side wants to kill you?

People get called Drama Queens for less.

“Victims” at M4M Dump on All Kinds of Families

M4M is now repeating the mantra that a family is “a mom and a dad and a child. All the Arcbhishop’s Men tell us:

“In civil society, marriage’s essential public purpose is about providing kids with what they need — both a mom and a dad. Marriage is a reality that unites a man and a woman and any children born from their union. While there are many types of loving relationships, marriage is more.”

Got that, single parents?  Got that, people who marry later in life, or who decide not to have children?  Got that, people who would love children but are physically unable? Got that, people who adopt children?  Your marriages are less.

But careful pointing that out to our friends at Minnesotans for Meddling in Other People’s Marriages.  They’re allowed to judge you.  They put this harmful amendment on the ballot. They are judging not just gay people but anyone in any family that doesn’t look like Leave it to Beaver. But they’re allowed to do that.

Because they’re the real victims here.


A friend shared this fundraising letter he received from the Bishop of Winona, the Most Reverend John M. Quinn.  His letter states “Marriage is unique and is unlike any other relationship or friendship, because it is from the union of a husband and a wife, come children.”

His Excellency raises money by judging your marriage.

Your marriage may be less if you do not have children, but at least know that your godless union does serve a purpose: The Most Reverend John Quinn can raise a little money off of his judgement of you.