I can feel myself getting more brittle as this anti-gay ballot initiative heats up in Minnesota. I find myself wanting to blurt out to virtual strangers, "Can you even imagine what it would be like to have your family's mere existence up for a vote?"
After all, the Minnesota for Marriage folks are irate because they wanted the ballot initiative to be entitled, "Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman." They are suing Mark Ritchie, our Secretary of State, who titled it instead, "Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples," which, I think, is a more accurate description of the initiative, because it is about a constitutional amendment, not a litmus test of "how do you feel about gay people?"
To be recognized is to be seen, to be known and knowable. That's what the Minnesota for Marriage folks don't want my family to be. They want us invisible, nonexistent, unimaginable. Especially when every state that has had one of these has lost, especially when polls show that we are likely to lose here, it does wear on a body.
This week, a lesbian friend with a 10-year-old son told me that her son is counting the supportive lawn signs. A recent transplant to Minnesota, he is trying to figure out what he can count on in this place (literally). Another minister-type friend, a lesbian, says she is feeling weary and negative as she officiates at heterosexual weddings all summer, with so many people absolutely clueless about the thousands of privileges they are inheriting with their vows. "I didn't used to feel this way!" she says, clearly embarrassed.
As for me, I kind of picked a fight with a relative that has much more to do with the ballot initiative than it did with the Topic of Conversation at Hand. Since she doesn't even live in this state, it's unlikely that she could know why I suddenly had such force behind my words. And I'm weary as I even imagine how I would explain.
I've worked against these initiatives for 20 years now, beginning with Ballot Measure 9 in Oregon. I've done so as a person of faith, urging compassion and love in the midst of it all. I stand by those values, and I'm clinging to them now, but I need to confess that it is harder when it's my own beloved state in the mix.
My teenager -- not yet a twinkle in the eye during Ballot Measure 9 -- is spending the summer volunteering six days a week at the office of Minnesotans United for All Families. After one day of cold calling to talk to strangers and find out whether they were for or against, I heard at the end of the day, "I don't think people could ever guess what it feels like to have your parents and so many people you love condemned to Hell. I'm beginning to hate God." After that it's been data entry and calling known supporters.
Myself, I've committed about eight hours a week of my nonexistent free time to this struggle, because I don't want to wake up the day after the election and feel that I didn't do what I could. Even if we lose the vote, I want to be able to point to gains made in personal conversations, in movement building, in language and understanding. I want to do what marriage-equality guru Evan Wolfson calls "losing forward."
I am also going to keep a journal/blog about these 100 days, and even what happens after the election. It will give me a place to sort out and name what I see, and to invite wisdom from readers to sustain me. I do so knowing that I will also hear from the inevitable people who need to tell me I am going to Hell. Note to such people: I'm a Universalist. I don't "recognize" Hell. I don't believe any loving God would create people only to send them there!