We are all Minnesota: the lead up to marriage equality

This post was written by former SSL Campaign Manager Adam Gerhardstein in 2011, jsut before marriage equality became law in MN.

Yesterday I put on my yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirtfor the first time in a long while (Minnesota winters are not too conducive to t-shirts). I went to the Minnesota state capitol building and rallied against the proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a purely heterosexual privilege. I have only been to a few rallies since I moved to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., but I have noticed that they are very different here.

Here are three things I’ve noticed.

First, silos are for grains, not for causes. Each cause here seems to make room for another. An immigration rally I went to last fall began with a Native American drum circle and dance (Minnesota has a large Native population). There was something incredibly humbling and spiritually invigorating about beginning our action for modern day immigration reform by being reminded of the longest American struggle for justice. I began that witness by asking myself, “who am I?” And, “who was pushed aside to make room for me?”

Yesterday, our marriage equality crowd shared the capitol rotunda with the Minnesota African American Lobby Day. We were up on the balcony of the rotunda crowded around the house chamber door and the Lobby Day was just below us on the rotunda floor. The Lobby Day had an amazing program with speakers, prayer, and song. When the Lobby Day folks would erupt in cheers, I’d see many in our crowd let out a yelp as well. Also, many of the people attending the Lobby Day grabbed marriage equality stickers on the way in. The participants in the two events did not begrudge sharing the capitol. They were curious about their newfound neighbors and willing to add a little noise or a little visibility in the spirit of lending a hand.

Second, changing the world is a family affair. In four years in D.C., I cannot remember seeing many children tagging along with their parents on lobby days, rallies, or events. Only at the very large events that brought in busloads from across the country would children be found milling around the National Mall. But at your everyday local rally, children were largely missing. Yesterday at the Capitol, families abounded. There were babies strapped to chests and backs, children crawling around on the floor, and children holding signs.

I was most moved by a father who came to the rally without his family but grabbed a large family photo off the mantel before coming to the rally. It showed himself, his partner, and their three sons on a ski-trip. Those gay parents and their kids were the reason I was standing there as a straight ally. The love I saw in that photo reminded me of the love that pops out of a photo of the same size that sits on my mantel, a wedding photo of my wife and I kneeling in a canoe and lovingly gazing into each other’s eyes. A family’s love is sacred and when I looked at that man’s family photo I saw the divine. I’d like the Minnesota State Constitution to reflect that love, not reject that love.

Finally, Minnesota is not a state; it is a community. I have a confession. I have gone to many rallies. At those rallies I have led chants and joined in chants. But I have never really liked chanting. But at the rally yesterday I heard a chant I have never heard before and I really liked it. The crowd simply started chanting, “we are Minnesota, we are Minnesota, we are Minnesota.” The chant did not rhyme, count, or spell. But it reminded me, and anyone who could hear, that Minnesota is a diverse community, and that in this state, no one is any more Minnesotan than anyone else.

We all have to survive the winters and we all have something to say about the state fair. We all want someone to cuddle up with during those winters and we all deserve the right to propose to our love over a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies at the top of the ferris wheel. We are all Minnesota.