It's happened three times just this week, but it happens over and over: When I break the news to people that, should Minnesota be the first state ever to defeat a constitutional amendment defining marriage as existing only between a man and a woman, marriage between two people of the same gender will still be completely illegal in Minnesota, they get confused. They thought that all this hard work going on, talking about the meaning of marriage and confronting homophobia, coming out to distant relatives and speaking out in the workplace, would actually get us to a new place, legally. Nope. It just stops us from digging a deeper hole to climb out of later.
Sometimes I hate to tell people the truth about this fight. One of the folks I broke it to this week was an activist teenager, a young straight girl putting her whole force into talking to her friends' parents about her feelings on the amendment. She looked at me as if I must be insane, and then, after consulting the Oracle of Google and discovering that I knew what I was talking about, she asked, "Why bother, then?" and started texting a friend. My fear that she was quitting her crusade wasn't realized, thankfully, but she is still somewhat bitter, a little closed.
Sometimes I like to tell people the truth about this fight. One of the folks I broke it to was a Catholic woman who was sure that I was wrong, because she had heard otherwise at church. When she discovered that I was right, it made her think. "If they are misinforming me about something as basic as that," she wondered, "what else might they be telling me that isn't true?" We had a good conversation.
We're having hard conversations here in Minnesota, at block parties and family picnics, workplaces and farmers' markets, about the deeper questions (what marriage means, and why all kinds of people want it), about love, and about what it feels like to be told that some families aren't as good as others. These are really important things to talk about, and the conversations will go on for years, as they already have. However, we're not talking so much about law and constitutional amendments and discrimination. People shut down in conversations like that. They disbelieve each other, as folks have not believed me, about the facts of the matter. They quit talking.
So I'm sitting with this question: Would it hurt or help this vote if people understood that they were not actually voting for marriage equality but against flaunting the corpse of marriage equality in the streets for all to jeer at? I'll keep telling people the truth as conversations demand it, but I don't think I'm going to lead with it. It's much more interesting to talk about love, marriage, and all the deeper issues involved with the amendment.