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Ten reasons to vote “no” on the marriage ban amendment

Seven days to go. Yes, this is a political topic, and I know we’re all tired of political statements, but this isn’t politics to me. It’s human and civil rights.

I struggle referring to the proposed amendment as the “marriage amendment” because it evokes none of the feelings of love, equality, and respect that I have come to understand through my own marriage. Rather, it conveys the need to suppress or attack these feelings in others. Besides, at its heart, it’s not about protecting marriage. It’s about being anti-gay. It’s about cementing the illegality of gay marriage in this state.

While I believe the amendment is disrespectful and discriminatory, I think you can trust that I will be neither in my counter-argument. You will read no hate, no anger, and no sarcasm. Here are ten reasons why I think you should vote “no” for this proposed amendment.

10. I believe society has more important things to worry about. I’m thinking about poverty, starving children, education, better healthcare, national defense, jobs, pollution, our place on the world stage, and human rights, among other things. Taking care of these things makes the world a better place. The amendment does not. BTW, gay marriage is illegal in MN, regardless of this amendment. Amending the state constitution makes it harder for the legislative branch to overturn the discriminatory law.

9. It’s not fair. Well yeah, life isn’t fair. However, I don’t think that means we work to increase the divide. How ridiculous is it to make things more fair for people who are straight by making things less fair for people who are gay? We do not make ourselves better by teaching children that discrimination is acceptable. We do not rise as a society by pushing people beneath us.

8. Millions of dollars have been wasted. And millions more have been spent to fight this attack on civil rights. I’m not going to call out any religious, political, or other organization, but I imagine people with greater needs would have benefitted from the money that was spent in support of this amendment. The dollar amounts will only increase as the sides continue to fight after the amendment passes or fails.

7. It does not help to make my life as a Minnesotan better. There’s no effect on my marriage. But if you, as a Minnesotan, think your life will be better or your husband-wife marriage is safer because the amendment passed, you’re wrong. It’s only a definition that excludes people who are not you. Our marriages are in no more danger than they are by “allowing” interracial or interfaith marriages. From my point of view, the proposal harms Minnesotan society by helping it discriminate against its citizens.

6. It infringes on Civil Rights. It uses the state constitution to exclude citizens. Certainly, the state constitution was not written to put certain citizens beneath other citizens via vote or mandate. If it’s not something everyone can have, it’s not a civil right. If it’s not a civil right, it has no place in a document that governs civil rights. I cannot and will not, in good conscience, vote for something that’s purpose-for-being, its raison d’être, is to be used to discriminate against people.

5. It allows a religion’s influence upon the state constitution. True, there is no mention of religion in the proposed language. But this is a religious push, make no mistake. I was raised a Lutheran and I still believe in God, but that doesn’t mean I want my religion or any other religions to be the law that governs all. And that is the precedent this amendment sets. If you don’t believe the state constitution should tell you to follow Catholic, Talmudic, or Sharia laws, then why vote for this one?

4. It is a push for more government in an overly-bureaucratic society. It seems a bit oxymoronic to demand less government, but to push for more bureaucracy, to tighten the purse strings while spending money on an unnecessary campaign against your own citizens, to claim the moral high ground atop a hill of prejudice.

3. My religion doesn’t tell me it’s wrong. Wait, what? I grew up in a church-going, Lutheran household. In church and Sunday school, I was not given any direction on marriage or homosexuality, though certainly marriage was included in a parable or two. I did not attend sermons or read stories about Leviticus, the oft-quoted book used to condemn this topic. My religion taught me about forgiveness, respect, and love.

But the Bible – the book of my religion – well, that says very specific things about homosexuality, right? True. That can’t be argued. But look at all the other rules in Leviticus. I don’t want to generalize, but most of us are not following EVERY rule described there. Most of us are not following MOST of the rules there. If you believe one rule in Leviticus is the absolute law of God, you have to believe all the rules of Leviticus are the absolute laws of God. Otherwise, we are selectively following the Bible. Which means a choice. And if you believe in God, then you CAN believe he gave you the ability and the intelligence to make the right choices. It means you can change your mind.

The Bible defines marriage several different ways, but it defines only one way to love my neighbor: as I would love God. My religion tells me this, but it doesn’t tell me to follow Leviticus. And really, we shouldn’t need a book or a deity or a sermon to tell us we need to love and respect other people.

2. The heart of a gay marriage is no different than my own. It’s about two people in love, respecting each other, having a desire to create a family that may include children, and in the end, making the world a better place. Gender doesn’t play into that any more than saying the genders involved in a man-woman marriage are responsible for the divorce rate.

So those are nine of my reasons, but I have a confession to make: I lied. There’s really only one reason I’m voting NO.

1. There are gay people I love. I can proudly say, I’m related to people who are gay, I have close friends and acquaintances who are gay, and I work with people who are gay. I don’t want them hurt. I don’t want them discriminated against. I want them to have equal rights. I probably see people who are gay every day who keep it secret, fearing that I will hate them or be disgusted by them. That’s heartbreaking, thinking that someone believes I am, or anyone is, capable of such a thing. I’m not – and I can’t imagine wanting to be – someone that looks into his child’s eyes, his sister’s eyes, his neighbor’s eyes, or a stranger’s eyes, and says that I think less of them because they are gay.

So yes, I wrote this for selfish reasons. But since I’m doing it to help people, it feels less selfish than the reasons that people use for voting yes. I would as vehemently defend the rights of all my friends and acquaintances, regardless of race, religion, culture, or anything else. I treat them all with respect because it’s the right thing to do. And I expect the same in return. To me, that’s the basis for my humanity.

Maybe it’s even a little naïve to think I can convince the country to change its way of thinking. But for now, I’m content in trying to convince a few of my fellow Minnesotans to think about things a little differently. To the people backing this amendment, with all due respect, I feel sorry for you. I am sorry for the time and effort and money that you are expending to ensure that your fellow Minnesotans cannot enjoy the same rights you enjoy. And I am especially sorry that you feel your time and effort and money would not be better spent helping those that truly need these things, like children, the sick, and the elderly.

To those of you undecided, I’m not asking you to love people who are gay. I’m not even asking you to like people who are gay, likeable though they may be. This is simply a plea to respect your fellow human beings and to show them that the people of Minnesota do not tolerate the concept of second-class citizens.

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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in gay marriage, Wallevand, writing

 

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Mike’s take on teachers’ unions

NOTE: My wife is a teacher. My parents were teachers. I have friends who are teachers and work in school districts. I have an obvious bias. Despite that, I consider teachers an investment in the future of our children and our country.

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Watching the events in Wisconsin over the past few weeks—the protests, the speeches, the commentary—I think I’ve finally figured out why teachers need unions.

It’s not to ensure that these teachers working with our children are treating the kids respectfully, sometimes better than the kids’ parents.

It’s not to ensure teachers get out of work at 2:33 so they can go home to spend the night correcting papers, developing lesson plans, or buying supplies with their own money.

It’s not so they can be laid off every summer, yet still spend a few weeks of that break working on plans for the coming year.

It’s not so there is a watchdog there to ensure that the teachers are giving kids the skills they need to succeed in life, like reading, writing, math, critical thinking, social interaction, research, and problem solving. Nor is it to ensure that teachers foster in kids that love of science, math, reading, computers, debate, and music that will help them grow into the adults that will lead America and the world through the 21st century.

It’s not to ensure that teachers make the children care about learning when kids’ own parents never did.

It’s not to ensure a teacher can’t be held accountable for the performance of students or to ensure a teacher cannot be fired, both of which are laughable and irresponsible misconceptions.

It’s not to ensure that teachers help kids get the education they need to get a good-paying job that will support their future families.

It’s not to require that the teachers know not only *the materials* they are presenting, but how to *teach* the materials they are presenting.

It’s not to ensure that teachers help kids understand that ignorance and prejudice are not acceptable, or that there is nobility and heroism in standing up to bullies and racists.

It’s not to ensure that the teacher knows how to manage 25-35 children for 7 class periods a day, while keeping track of learning plans and grades for each one.

It’s not to ensure that the teacher stands up to parents who yell at them for the failing grade their child received, instead of disciplining their own child. Just like it’s not to ensure the teacher refuses to award extra points when parents are unhappy with the student’s honor roll ranking. 

It’s not to ensure that a child still focuses on learning, despite experiencing things like bullying, the changes of adolescence, and parental divorce.

It’s not to ensure that the teacher wakes up in the middle of the night because a child has stopped caring about his or her homework.

It’s not to ensure the teacher gets to buy a well-rounded lunch in children’s portions that includes words like “reconstituted”, “hamburger gravy”, and “ketchup as a vegetable”.

It’s not to ensure the teacher carries on with what is often a thankless job.

It’s not to ensure that the teacher knows what it means when a former student returns with words of gratitude years after graduation. Or that the teacher will hold onto those words like a precious diamond that cannot be spent.

No, teachers do these things all on their own. Because it’s their job. Because it’s their calling.

Teachers need a union so they have someone to stand up for them when politicians and commentators come after them for—apparently—making too much money and being too well rewarded.

Teachers need a union to stand up for our kids and say it’s not alright to close a school in parts of the city where children need it most.

Teachers need a union to have someone represent them when it’s suggested that cutting the salaries of 400,000-some teachers will buoy an economy of 307,000,000 people.

Teachers need a union to ensure that they can spend their time caring for, raising, and *teaching* our children instead of fighting for a cost of inflation raise that doesn’t fit into a government budget.

Teachers need a union because we need someone to protect those people who have the heart, the brains, and the balls to do something most of us cannot.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2011 in teachers, unions, Wallevand, writing

 

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Mike’s take on gay marriage

Sometimes there is nothing as infuriating as a good friend. In this case, it’s the one who makes you finally stand up and say what you believe in. This writing came about as the result of a disagreement over gay marriage. Because my long-winded response was far too ridiculously lengthy to put into a Facebook comment, I posted only an excerpt at the time. My intent now is not to get in the face of zealots, not be anti-/pro-God, not to convert those who disagree with me, and not to ensure that I am liked by any particular aspect of society. On a day where many of us are standing up against the bullying of gay people, I provide it simply out of love and support of people that are important to me. 

In the case of marriage, anti-gay elements of our society have hijacked the word “tradition” not to define what marriage is, but to attack or exclude what they consider it is *not*. Granted, there are many that believe in this definition because there is a warm security in something defined, regimented, familiar. For many, the ideal comes from an individual’s experiences: the traditions of their own families that extend only as far back as living memory and as broadly as their travels. There is comfort in that. But it’s not really based on any true sense of what’s right or wrong for their fellow humans. If these elements were true champions of the marriage cause, should not their words be as equally persuasive, their protests be as equally vehement, when it comes to divorce, spousal abuse, and child neglect? Sadly, they never are.

This push for the newly-defined traditional marriage is yet another way to dictate the beliefs of one group upon another, a way to feel superior by bullying those who are thought inferior. Dictating beliefs to others does not instill beliefs upon them. Beliefs come from the heart and mind, not by threats and force and hate. How can any of us claim that our beliefs are stronger than another’s? Do we really shine brighter by casting shadows upon others? This seems a selfish trait, meant to elevate ourselves into God’s graces at the expense of others. So human, yet so animal. Call it Survival of the Fittest, though we have all been told we can be saved. That’s the thing: we can *all* be saved. Again, I do not know God’s intent, but I do not think the path to Heaven is built upon the backs of people we push beneath us.

In one, broadly-accepted sense of the word, a tradition is something that comes into being after years or repetition, but more likely, after generations. How long has marriage in this newly-defined traditional form broadly existed? A few generations, perhaps. In the 19th century, women were sold or traded into marriage to be little more than domestic slaves whose value was in cooking and the birthing of heirs. Sometimes, it was as simple as sending a girl to a better life or to reduce of number of mouths to feed. Going further back, marriages were established to finalize land deals and treaties. Even further back, wives were collected by polygamous royalty. Most of these things still exist in the world, uncontested and unprotested. Now, these are facts, defined as marriage in human history, and recognizing them as such means that one accepts that the definition of marriage is an ever-evolving, nebulous thing. If this is the case, why think the definition has stopped evolving now?

Therefore, I would disagree, with a laugh upon my lips and a twinkle in my eye, my friend’s assertion that the newly-defined traditional marriage is perfection in any sense of the word. Why? Because perfection is being defined by him, and like-minded individuals, *only* as “one man, one woman”—no other aspects of perfection are painted on protest signs or shouted in mildly creative chants in front of government buildings. As proof of this, ask any protestor of gay marriage how they define marriage, and the first thing nearly every one will say is “one man, one woman”, not “a safe environment to raise a family” or “a place where two loving, committed people can build a life together”. This strongly suggests the focus is not on the ideal; rather it is based on a dislike or hate of homosexuality. And this is far from enough to make an ideal marriage—that my friend and I both mentioned divorce, abuse, and neglect in our debate is proof positive of that. Oh sure, one might argue that no one wants to define marriage as “one man, one woman, may or may not involve abuse, and will likely lead in divorce”. Obviously. But if gay people didn’t exist, neither would this sudden, fervent support of marriage by new traditionalists. We can all be assured there would be no demonstrations, no pushes for legislation, and no hate-mongering talk radio hosts making any mention of it. Therefore, the support of the newly-defined traditional marriage, as pure as its adherents would like it to be, is built upon a foundation of prejudice and hate, regardless of whether all its followers feel the same. A rotten foundation will devastate even the most luxurious of homes or noblest of edifices.

I would agree that an ideal marriage is something for which we should all strive. For me, the ideal is a beautiful, loving wife, who is fiercely independent, highly intelligent, caring and giving, funny enough to make me laugh, and loves me absolutely unconditionally. None of these attributes are unique to women. But for me, I am only interested in women, er, one woman, so I was not seeking a man to marry. Or a blonde woman. Or one with brown eyes. Or a really short woman. Obviously, none of my ideals match point-for-point with anyone else’s ideals.

I think we should examine what it is that makes the newly-defined traditional marriage—circumscribed as one man, one woman—so ideal. Is it that the personality traits of a man complement those of a woman? Well, that cannot be the case because there are no human personality traits that are unique to either gender, though I would agree that the complementary traits, the yin/yang dynamic, are essential. Perhaps then it is the convenience of natural procreation by two committed people? Then I suppose we would have to exclude married couples who went through fertility treatments, adopted children, or used a surrogate mother. Well, this won’t do at all. They are all lovely people I am sure, and certainly not hell-bound. And don’t forget the couples who do not want children—is their marriage not ideal, and therefore, invalid? Well, is then there some kind of…indefinable commitment then that only a man and woman can have to each other? Well, this means that any commitments, any loyalty that a man has to any other person in the world, be he father, brother, friend, priest, or president, was less important and less valuable. This doesn’t make sense to me, being a person who does not rank his loyalties in such a way. And just because a man and a woman have made a commitment before the Law and under God, it doesn’t mean they are going to adhere to it any stronger simply because they are man and woman. Again the divorce and abuse rates seem to call into question the commitment of an alarming number of married couples. Is it then body type, the muscles of the man and the delightful curves of a woman that make only man and woman compatible? No two people on earth would define human attractiveness exactly the same, so this seems an indefinable attribute that must also be excluded from the definition of marriage, save for the fact that there is an attraction between two people.

So, taking into account the realities of marriage in modern life, suddenly the list of couples in the newly-defined traditional marriage has grown short. This would suggest the current, common definition is becoming the exception, not the rule. Which means, no longer a tradition. And it therefore makes the use of the word “tradition” meaningless, except to those feeling the need to condemn others.

If every single attribute, every single emotion, every single human characteristic, can be found in a man or a woman, then suddenly the question of gender is…irrelevant. To suggest that a perfect or ideal marriage can only be built upon the foundation of a one man, one woman relationship immediately puts the definition of tenuous ground. One man, one woman marriages are proving less successful every year. And gay marriages have not yet been tested, so we have no basis to determine if they will be completely successful or heralds of the apocalypse. I imagine they will be somewhere in between, since they are also comprised of human beings with all the faults, beauty, and intelligence that make humans so wonderfully complex.

There seems to be one last argument, one last thing that could crack the foundations of my arguments. Divine mandate. That’s a hard one to sway people with either way. I am neither a Bible-basher nor a Bible-basher basher. I am not arrogant enough to claim to know God’s will or the will of any celestial entity that is floating above me. And I don’t feel like I’ve heard a Word that has directed me one way or another. But I believe I have the intelligence, the compassion, the strength, and the love that will shape me into the best possible person I can be. Whether these traits were given to me or evolved in me is irrelevant. Irrelevant? Yes, because either way, they mean I have free will. They are what little I, or anyone else, really has to go on in our relationships with other human beings. Because if we do what we know in our hearts to be good and true, and we treat others as we wish to be treated, truly that would seem to be the Will of God. I’m not going to follow a belief because a man has told me it is so. If I am only doing things that I have been told will please God, I am not doing them because they are right.

Oh, but the Bible says homosexuality is a sin? Well, the Bible says many things are a sin. I’m not going to argue whether the book is the Will of God made words upon a page or whether it’s the work of a bunch of nutters suffering from sunstroke in the desert trying to capture all the ancestral begatting, thinking of fun ways to restrict the eating of food, and capturing all the reasons women are bad. But it seems to me if one thing in the Bible is law, all things in the Bible are law. It’s sort of an all-or-nothing kind of book—we don’t get to go through and highlight the things we like and tear out the pages that are inconvenient. I’ve found people generally fall into three buckets when it comes to the Bible: those who believe absolutely, those who absolutely do not believe, and those who believe in the spirit of the message, not the exact written words of it. I’m of the third group, and if I’ve learned anything from my religious studies, it is three things: 1) judge not, unless I wish myself to be judged; 2) attacking the least of the followers of God is to attack God himself; and 3) about halfway through biblical history, we went from eye-for-an-eye to turn-the-other-cheek. So, it is interesting to me how the Bible brings out the most unusual incongruities in people. On one hand, you have people quoting the Bible, decrying homosexuality, but forgetting the judgment they face for casting the first stones. On the other hand, many gay people believe in God, despite the persecution of organized religion. Isn’t it ridiculously counter-intuitive to believe in a deity whose followers proclaim you are going to Hell? That, I believe, is a true definition of Faith.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love family tradition and I am not arguing *against* a one man, one woman marriage. What a ridiculous thought. I think it worked pretty well for me as a child and it’s working pretty well for me as an adult. Admittedly, the marriage tradition in my family has been one man, one woman as far back as I know. But that will change one day. And then my family will have new traditions and new ways of looking at the world. Tradition makes us human, but the traditions of all of us together make us a society. I fear the narrow-mindedness of the newly-defined traditional marriage because of its limited definition, its arrogance to tell me what it thinks is best for the world, and because, by extension, it seeks to protect me from a world that is unknown, a world that might speak a different language, eat different foods, and create different works of art. Because it doesn’t stop at homosexual bias—it leeches into gender and race and religion and culture, seeking to destroy all that is unfamiliar. And the world out there, it is beautiful and wondrous and filled with the art and language and the learning of billions of people. It is through these things that the world will become a better place, not through the persecution and hatred of others.

So finally—finally!—“marriage” is in many senses, simply a word defined by humans, just like tradition. If my relationship with my wife were called a flooby-doo, it would have no less meaning to us (though perhaps far more snickering). And maybe, as someone who doesn’t have to fight for acceptance under the current definition of the word, I place less importance on the meaning of the word itself. But to the gay community, acceptance into the definition of the word is a step closer to acceptance into society as a whole. To, as humans, throw off another definition: that of second-class citizens.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in gay marriage, Wallevand, writing

 

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Huh. So that’s why he created this page.

I sometimes get inspired or fired up enough to take a stand on something. And it didn’t make sense to post those writings on my fiction page.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Wallevand, writing

 

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