By: Shannon Ralph
I have an orange sign in my front yard. My sign is identical to those dotting yards and covering entire neighborhoods in the city of Minneapolis. The message on the sign is simple.
It says, “Vote No. Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry.”
I am uplifted and heartened by the sea of orange I see all around me. At the same time, however, I am well aware how close the vote will be on November 6th when Minnesota votes on a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I know Minneapolis—in all its liberal glory—does not represent the entire state. I am painfully cognizant of the fact that no state has ever rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage when it has been put to popular vote. I hope that my beloved adopted state will be the first, but I am not entirely confident that will be the case.
So I am worried. Not so much for me. I know what is going on. It has happened and is happening all over the United States. I realize that this amendment is a last-ditch effort by those who fear the gains gay people are making in this country. A Hail Mary pass on the part of those who can’t see past differences and are terrified of change. I get it. Really, I do. I grew up in the south, after all. If ever there existed a place afraid of change, the southern United States is that place.
I am, however, worried for my children.
When we first began talking to our children about the proposed marriage amendment, my oldest son, Lucas, became teary-eyed and asked, “Momma, if people vote ‘yes’, will Nicholas and Sophie still be my brother and sister?”
I can’t even begin to express how much this one little question broke my heart and rocked me to my core. I explained as best I could that this vote would not change our family. No matter what happens on November 6th, his mom and I will always love one another. We will always live together as a family. We will always be his moms. We will always love him. And his brother and sister will absolutely be his brother and sister until the end of time. This will be the reality no matter what happens in November.
I think he understands. I hope he understands. But he’s only nine.
Do you remember being nine years old? More than likely, you lived with your mom and dad and brothers and sisters. Your only cares in the world were what your mom was going to cook for dinner and how much math homework you had to complete before “Mork and Mindy” came on. You fought with your siblings. You went on family vacations to Disney World or the Grand Canyon. Your world was safe. You felt secure in the knowledge that your family would always be there for you. They were not perfect by any means, but you had no doubt in your mind that they were yours. You belonged to them and they belonged to you.
Now imagine being told that all of the adults you know—your friends’ parents, your teachers, your piano teacher, your soccer coach, your mailman, the guy who tells you when it is going to snow on TV—are going to vote to decide on the validity of your family. The only family you have ever known. They are going to vote to decide if your family is “real” and “right.” And you don’t know what will happen afterward.
That is some scary shit we are putting on the tiny shoulders of our kids.
I am a 40-year-old grown woman. I understand what’s going on. Lucas is nine. He is in 4th grade. In 4th grade, when you are doing something wrong, the teacher makes you stop. If this amendment passes—if people decide that gay marriage is “wrong”—will the state make his mommas stop? Will they no longer be allowed to live together if they can not marry? Will he have to choose one parent over the other? Will his family be broken apart? Will his brother and sister no longer be his brother and sister? Will he have anyone left?
These are the thoughts that go through the head of a nine-year-old little boy when every adult he knows is going to vote to determine if his family is a “valid” family.
It is not right. It is not fair. It is not American. And it is certainly not Minnesotan. At least not the independent, progressive Minnesota where I choose to live and work and raise my children.
Here’s the thing though…the “gay marriage” amendment is really not about gay marriage at all. Today, I cannot marry my partner in the state of Minnesota. On November 7th, if this amendment passes or fails, I still will not be able to marry my partner in the state of Minnesota. Nothing changes. The only thing that will be different is that the next generation, our children, will have to work three times as hard to make gay marriage a reality when they come to the conclusion—and they most certainly will come to the conclusion—that we were all ridiculous for ever thinking gay marriage was an issue.
So all this vote is doing is sending a message to all of the gay people of the state—and the thousands of children we are raising—that our families are inferior. We are second-class citizens. We are not welcome here. I can’t imagine that this is the message the good people of Minnesota really want to send to my 9- and 6-year-old children. I can’t fathom that people in this state are really that callous and cruel. I refuse to believe it.
So I am imploring you…please do not do this. Please vote no on November 6th. You do not have to do it for me or for any of the other gay and lesbians adults in this state who understand what this is really about. Vote no for our children. Our kids who do not understand. Our kids who just want to feel safe and secure in their families. Children who deserve to feel safe and secure.
I am begging you—not as lesbian, but as a mother.
Vote no. Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry.
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