Home » People & Culture » “Minnesota for Marriage” – Simply Wrong

“Minnesota for Marriage” – Simply Wrong

Minnesota voters will confront the issue in simple black letters on a white ballot this November. “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”  This “Marriage Amendment” is the most controversial of what is likely to be many ballot questions, and the sides are already gearing up for a fight.

In support of the Amendment there is “Minnesota for Marriage”, a coalition of groups that lobbied the Legislature to put the question on the ballot in the first place.  Their arguments are heartfelt, clearly defined, serious – and ultimately misplaced.  It is worth taking the time to refute their position carefully so that this issue can be defined by what it is – a Civil Rights issue.

The position of Minnesota for Marriage is well summed up on their website under a tab plainly labeled “Why Marriage Matters”.  It is a lengthy essay that comes down to a very simple assertion:

Why has virtually every society throughout history defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman? The answer can be summarized in one word: children.

Protecting the interests of children is the primary reason that government regulates and licenses marriage in the first instance. After all, government does not license or regulate any other form of intimate relationship – not friendship, or dating, or cohabitation. People are free, under the law, to live as they choose, cohabitate with whomever they choose and engage in sexually intimate relationships with whomever they choose – all without any governmental recognition or regulation.

This assertion is somewhat reasonable as far as it goes.  It is very true that, under today’s laws, heterosexual marriage is the only relationship regulated by the government, at least since cohabitation and sodomy laws were struck down by the courts.  What has remained is the definition of “marriage” as we know it, the very last regulation of intimate relationships left.  But it is not entirely in the interests of children.

Heterosexual couples incapable of or lacking the desire to have children still have the protections of marriage available to them.  These include definition of joint property, control of medical decisions when incapacitated, and assumed probate (death) rights.  There is nothing about children in the vast bulk of the laws that define “marriage” as we know it – these rights are available only to one class of people and denied to another.

But if the protection of children is the main concern of this group, the concept of marriage is even more limited.  In Minnesota today, about 45% of all marriages end in divorce (excel sheet).  Roughly 28% of all children are raised by single parents.  Marriage law and the rights it gives to couples are irrelevant to the interests of many children.

More to the point, some assertions made by this group are simply naïve:

But marriage is a special relationship reserved exclusively for heterosexual unions because only the intimate relationship between men and women has the ability to produce children as a result of that sexual union.

Statistics on artificial insemination are hard to come by, but there is no doubt that it is entirely possible for a same-sex couple to have biological children.  Laws also do not restrict their ability to adopt, nor is their any restriction preventing a divorced parent from “cohabitating” with a person of the same sex who becomes a significant figure in a child’s life as a step-parent.

Marriage, as we know it, is simply not set up as a system for protecting the interests of children in today’s world.

If this group wants to craft legislation designed to protect children in today’s world they will find many strong allies in both political parties.  There is little doubt that the laws in place were written in a time when the two-parent heterosexual family was very much the standard situation for most children in Minnesota.  They could use updating in many ways.

However, the question in front of voters this November is just as silent on the interests of children as our antique laws on marriage.  What will be in front of voters is an amendment to the constitution that would make it impossible to re-define marriage without another amendment later on to repeal it.  Any possible effort to refine our laws and truly protect children would become more difficult, not more likely, should this amendment pass.  If anything, it does the opposite of what this group purports to be important, given the very real state of life in Minnesota today.

The argument in favor of this amendment based on the interests of children fails completely for very simple reasons.  There is no reason to believe that what will be in front of voters has anything to do with the case presented by Minnesota for Marriage.  Their arguments should be rejected as irrelevant at best, and harmful at their worst.

21 thoughts on ““Minnesota for Marriage” – Simply Wrong

  1. Sometimes the best solution is to take a different route.

    I find the phrase “civil union” to be a compelling phrase, and one that the gay community should consider embracing wholly.

    Once that phrase is accepted, then over time try and get some or all of the same rights given to those who prefer to be “married”.

    • There are many ways to look at this issue. I tend to favor the argument put forward by Sen. John Marty, a Lutheran Pastor. He has advanced the idea that the government probably should not be telling any faith how to define “marriage” at all, and should simply junk the entire term as a legal definition altogether. I favor that separation of church and state, especially given that many faiths now perform same-sex marriages.
      For the purpose of this article, however, I wanted to refute the assertion of the pro-amendment coalition that this has anything to do with children. It does not. That attempt to re-define this amendment has to be cut down before it gets any traction at all because it is ridiculous.

  2. It’s a bullshit argument that did not deserve the total ripping you gave it. But it’s still good that you did. We can’t let them say this is about children when it is about denying rights. The more we can keep this focused on the truth the more their homophobia is laid bare. They will say anything to dupe people into thinking it is about nearly anything else though. It is not. It is prejudice pure and simple.

    • Thank you, that is exactly what I think needs to be done. I wanted to be sure that someone, somewhere, addressed the issue of children before this argument got anywhere at all. There are people with legitimate concerns that are susceptible to arguments like these – someone has to address it directly and quickly. It is simply a BS argument, yes.
      But we have to remember that our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers are the ones who might be thinking about things like this as they consider the issue. After November, we have to continue to live and work together. Whatever we can do to bat down arguments like this respectfully and quickly the better, IMHO.

  3. High five’s, Erik! This is SUCH an absurd issue, I hardly know where to begin. You did an excellent job at presenting it a relatively unbiased manner, so this time I’ll just give you kudos and call it good. I’m still appalled at the bigotry in this country, but that’s another topic for another day. Keep up the good fight, my friend!

    • Thanks. We all have our roles to play here, and I think mine is to appeal to those in the reasonable middle who might be susceptible to careful and apparently reasonable arguments. The one I found on their site was simply not relevant and people who are reasonable need to know why.

  4. Erik–
    Thanks for your nicely reasoned, calm exposition of the issue. I hope folks
    are persuaded by your line of reasoning in November. By bringing up the subject in both public and private conversation now, many months before the election, the distorted emotional arguments that will inevitably hit the air-waves will be blunted, I hope. You know the ones we can expect: “Mommy, mommy, our teacher told us to today at school that a girl can marry a girl.” If people had not given much thought to the amendment and heard that argument broadcast non-stop in the days prior to casting their ballots, they might be inclined to support the amendment out of fear. I hope we are able to anticipate the rhetoric of the coming attacks and provide a kind of anti-venom for the good people of Minnesota.

    • Glen – good to see ya, hope there is more in Barataria for you! You understand my reasoning and planned role very well. Fear and hype is the enemy of true progress, so we can’t be too hopped up in that if we want to do something good in the world. Most Minnesotans want to be decent, loving people, I’m sure, and we should appeal to to them directly. That’s my role, at least. The nastiness and fear will come, but until then we have to give reasonable people something to think about and talk about with their families and friends. Every little bit counts!
      Thanks for weighing in, the discussion in the comments are what make Barataria more than just my little blog!

  5. I think these guys need to understand that when they make up arguments that make no sense at all most people realize that they are hiding something. I’m not one for “this is all about hate” but when they come up with this you do have to wonder what they are hiding.

    • Thank you! Yes, we fight hate with love and we win. We talk openly about family and never dodge the issue – because it is what matters! We are not a bunch of theoretical policy wonks and holdover teenagers demanding rights, we are loving adults who want everyone to have the same opportunities.
      It does change everything when it’s done properly! Thanks again, great article.

  6. Goverrnment establishes public policy and public law on marriage, divorce and children because we are civil society, not a religious society. We allow marriage and divorce outside of religion. Civil marriage and divorce at least makes it somewhat accountable to the public.
    I support gay civil unions. That would provide a framework of rights and benefits for gays. I am agnostic on gay marriage because I have heard no arguments that allowing same-sex couples to marry will enhance either marriage in general, communities or families. Also, I have heard no convincing arguments that gay marriage will detract from regular marriage. Personally I don’t think it is hateful to assert that gay marriage and regular marriage are similar but different institutions.

    • I would understand it if we wound up with a compromise like a “Civil Union” and kept talking about what comes next. The problem with the amendment is that it closes the door for a long time on real equality. This is obviously a controversial issue and it should be worked out in the open – with love and respect. I’m starting to re-think labeling the opposition as “hate” because I’ve gotten some tweets and mail from people who are simply unsure right now – not hateful, just not ready to break with tradition. Labeling them “hateful” isn’t going to help anything, I think. There is indeed a lot of hate out there, but it isn’t everyone’s problem.

  7. Well done Erik. The procreation argument is the weakest of weak arguments…all one needs to do to deflate that one and get the individual sputtering is ask: “What about a man and a woman who do’t want children?” or “You would deny senior man and a post-menopause senior woman the right to marry?”

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  9. I think the amendment should be voted down, and I think the law banning same/sex marriage should be overturned or rescinded. However, if Same/sex marriage should be legal in the state of Minnesota, then so should all forms of polyamory–including Mormon polygamy. If the good of a child is the basis of marriage then polyamory is much more desireable than monagamy: there would be more incomes contributing to the household, and the loss of a single parent would not be as traumatic for the family unit (though, obviously, it would still be traumatic).

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