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Weathering the Storms of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment

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On Feb. 10, 2010, a cold Minnesota evening, I sat down at the Leaning Tower of Pizza restaurant in South Minneapolis for what would be my first date with Jason. One year later, Jason and I sat down at the same booth, had the same waitress, and enjoyed the same pizza to celebrate the first anniversary of the day we met! That first year of dating was fantastic! We ran a half marathon together and competed and supported each other in races. I watched Jason and my mom hit it off while cheering me on in my first Ironman Triathlon in Madison, Wis. We capped off the year with a vacation of a lifetime to Maui and watched 10 beautiful sunsets from the beach.

After that first amazing year, we had a world of opportunity in our hands and an excitement and enthusiasm to move our relationship forward. In April 2011 I welcomed Jason and his pet Chihuahuas into my home. For the first time as an adult, I felt like I had my own family. I finally had someone to enjoy life with. But life isn't always perfect. Our luck would change, and our relationship would be challenged very soon.

Because of layoffs, I lost the job that I loved. Having a partner there for me helped stave off depression. I used the first few weeks to work on some continuing education options and then began to apply for new positions after; however, the laws of nature had other things in mind to challenge us.

On May 22, 2011, Jason and I attended our first rally against the proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would enshrine discrimination into our state laws by banning marriage equality. We marched 2 miles through the city streets with hundreds of others, with support from onlookers, ending with great speeches from Mayor R.T. Rybak and other local officials.

As the rally drew to a close, the sky turned dark, the winds picked up, and an F2 tornado bulldozed a 5-mile-long path through Minneapolis, leading to the destruction of our home. We were moved into a temporary apartment, and from that point on, our life together as a couple would be challenged in every way imaginable.

As a couple, we initially had no problems dealing with contractors, the city, or insurance. Our relationship was respected by all involved, and that was a reassuring, especially after the trauma of the tornado. We asked an insurance adjuster if we would need separate claims and were told that we did not.

A few months later, that would change. Our insurance company contacted me and told me that despite the fact that they had been covering all our damaged items up to that point, they no longer would be covering Jason's, because we were not married legally. The new adjuster on the phone refused to refer to him as my partner or my boyfriend, only referring to him as "your friend."

I protested the discrimination but cried inside. In the eyes of my insurance company, Jason was no more than a roommate living in my home. Their policies diminished our relationship, and they had the legal cover to do just that. They explained it saying, "The law is the law and would apply to unmarried heterosexual couples living together, as well." While this may be true, unmarried heterosexual couples living together do so by choice, because they do have the option to get married, an option that Jason and I do not legally have. None of my other neighbors were challenged with the same issues.

If the Minnesota anti-marriage-equality amendment passes, issues like this will only increase for Jason and me and hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. We will have to work individually with companies that have antiquated policies regarding gay and lesbian couples. There will be no incentive for them to improve their policies as long as Minnesota does not recognize our relationships. There could even be an elimination of existing protections for same-sex couples.

In addition to providing legal cover for private-sector companies to discriminate against people like me, the proposed amendment would make 515 state protections that married heterosexual couples currently enjoy impossible for Jason and me to ever have in the future. This will harm Minnesotans. This will harm my friends. This will harm my family.

The proposed marriage amendment will also limit the relationship I have with Jason. Hopes of marrying will be gone. This will diminish the value of our relationship. Our story is so much like so many others: We met over a shared pizza and a beer. We laugh, we talk, we support each other, we cry, we celebrate, we travel, we love, we argue, we have fun, we are good neighbors, we have families, and we are like every other couple in the state. This amendment says that our relationship isn't valuable. This amendment makes it impossible for our union to continue to grow the way others do. This amendment limits our freedom and our pursuit of happiness.

It is my sincere hope that my fears do not come to pass and that the Minnesota marriage amendment is defeated, not only for Jason and me but for all the couples in Minnesota who deserve to be treated better than this.