Home » People & Culture » Be Happy, Be Gay

Be Happy, Be Gay

Minnesota will vote in November 2012 on constitutional amendment that will forever ban same-sex marriage in this state.  If approved, it will join a few other seemingly random scribblings at the end of our constitution such as the authorization to pay a bonus to Persian Gulf War veterans and a fundamental right to hunt and fish.

The nature of these odd things that don’t appear to belong in a constitution make the intention clear. They also make it obvious how we have to campaign against the amendment – by having a lot of fun with it.

My own opinion is shaped by the constant right-wing chant that marriage is a sacred religious bond – which, as far as I can tell, has no business being defined or even recognized by any government in the first place by the principle of separation of church and state.  But this is a minority view that will probably never get anywhere, so we have to deal with stuff like we have in front of us.

Constitutional amendments in Minnesota are the only way that a referendum can be placed on the ballot.  The Republicans like to have something on the ballot that can be used to get their people fired up and turning out.  The last time they controlled the Minnesota House they routinely sent such amendments off, including the two that are mentioned above in 1996 and 1998.  It’s a way of making sure that their people show up at the polls.  It may seem strange, but a case could easily be made that Republican Tom Emmer lost the last election more than Dayton won it because turnout was low in a few Republican areas.

Now that we’re clear what this amendment is really about we have to focus on what has to be done to stop it – which is to say turn out the opposition.  This particular amendment may very well go down to defeat, at least according to one poll.  But polls don’t tell the whole story – it all depends on who shows up.

However much money is spent on this constitutional amendment, it’s unlikely to change a single person’s opinion on the topic.  All that matters is getting people out to vote.  Period.

Given what is really going on here and how it has to be defeated, the strategy becomes clear – get people energized about the issue and out to the polls.  And that’s where humor comes into it.

Imagine a commercial like this:
A blonde little girl, about 8, peers over the edge of her bed in a room lit only by a night light.  The shot is from the floor as she peeks over the edge.
GIRL:  (shouting) Mom!  Dad! There’s a gay activist under my bed!
Switch shot to man in a polo shirt lying on the floor, finger up to his lips.
ACTIVIST: Shhhh!  I have to hide!
New scene:  Father and Mother of the girl, two very clean-cut middle aged white people.
MOTHER: (panicked) Oh!  I knew this might happen some day!
FATHER:  (sternly) That’s OK, we’ll take care of this.
MOTHER:  What should we do?
FATHER:  You just worry like you’ve never worried before, and I’ll fire off an extended screed on the internet.
MOTHER: Oh!
Close-up shot of mother biting her knuckle and looking teary
VOICEOVER:  Some people want you to act out of fear of everything.  Don’t buy into the fear.  Vote “no” in November.
New scene:  Girl and activist under a blanket with a flashlight, sitting up playing cards.
ACTIVIST:  Do you have any threes?
GIRL:  Go fish!

This is only an example, but this kind of approach is essential to turning out the younger voters who will make all the difference for this amendment.  Unlike the previous amendments sent to voters, this one has very real consequences and should fire up young people to turn out – thwarting the real intention of this little piece of political maneuvering.

There are many reasons to oppose this amendment with humor.  It’s hateful, cynical politics and so far away from what belongs in a constitution that it is a self-parody.  But more importantly, humor is a way to get people engaged that might not otherwise show up at the polls so that this thing can go down in flames.  It may not feel right at first, what with so much at stake, but this is about getting people out to the polls in order to put this little episode behind us.  Hopefully it will be the last such little game played with amendments, if we do this right.

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17 thoughts on “Be Happy, Be Gay

  1. I never thought of it, but this makes sense. It would be more fun than what is probably going to happen. We have to defeat this one way or the other. I am so not looking forward to this campaign.

  2. I don’t know. I realize that the right wing is playing games with people’s right, but I can’t see doing that ourselves. We do have to win and I think that the approach you are describing can be one part of it but I think we have to call on people to do what they know is the right thing for the right reason.

  3. Anna, I’m not looking forward to it, either. The amount of outside money that will come into Minnesota will be horrible. And a lot of outsiders will bring their own messages to our state, meaning our own values will be under assault from everyone else’s opinion of what we are supposed to do. Ug.

    Jim, I know this approach won’t sit well with people at first. But keep in mind that when the Republicans developed this fight they anticipated a reaction just like what you said – calling on people to do what they know is right. I say we have to catch them off guard and hit them where they don’t see it coming.

  4. I will bet that the DMA will pass. Unless it would require 60% of the vote which is a pretty high standard but probably appropriate. I can’t remember what the legacy amendment passed with. This area i.e. setting a high bar would be the tack I would suggest. On a similar note in some of my past readings I remember a nationally known scholar writing that Minnesota my not be in the southern bible belt; but it is smack dab the “buckle” of the northern bible belt. Iowa also has a very interesting religious history. Am reading the Fellowship of the Rings and they also have some interesting identity issues.

  5. Sadly, I fear it will pass. Many open-minded liberals sat on their hands this past election cycle; if they hadn’t perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation.

  6. Dan, Jack, I’m not sure. The early polls are useless, of course, but this is far closer than any other referendum has started. I think that a new direction could make this into a big surprise.

    If you had only people under 30 voting, BTW, I’m quite sure we would have same-sex marriage by now. So it is just a matter of time.

    I say we expose the cynical attempts to get people out to the polls for Republicans for what they are and have fun with it as much as we can. These guys deserve to be made fun of! Besides, most of them are real serious people who never crack a smile and try to make everything in their lives political. They won’t know how to respond to humor and fun.

  7. Boomer jack, I am not so sure it was open minded liberals who sat on their hands as it was a nonpresidential voting year. When less of the young and or disenfranchised don’t go to the polls. The GOP nationally and in MN was energized by the Tea Party which helped them win a few elections but their further right wing views also cost them a few. 2012 could use some fresh energy in a more varied world giving Biden a diplomatic post and a new fresh face for the Dems (who could that be ? I’ll look on 2016 presidential hopefuls). I still like Larry Agran from the 90’s sort of an odd man out like Paul (but never a serious contender) . I think Elizabeth Warren would be a real dynamo esp. for women. She also has the ability to speak clearly on economic issues.

  8. If you don’t have unlimited funds and you risk alienating some in your party is it worth putting a lot of chips on the table? How are ever going to come to an agreement on global warming, we now live in the anthropecene age where humans in the forms of dams and agriculture are having great effects on the natural enviroment.

  9. I hope this is what we do. These people need to be made fun of and you are right that it matters who gets to the polls. Ranting and raving will not do that.

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  11. People we have to remember we got Dayton in. We can get this out. Stay strong, We all need to keep working on what we can. Being on the right side of justice is not always easy. It can bring up lots of stress. Maybe it can help to show some people how really silly this whole thing is. Don’t let it get to you. Remember they are just little bullys in big peoples bodys.

  12. Dan, Jan: We have to learn how to talk about these issues in a way that gets people engaged. Being fun/funny is only part of it.

    Lisa: We can do it! I’m thinking of a “Get up, get down!” kind of feeling. Make it fun/funny/funky. But you’re right, they are just bullies!

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