So today around 4 pm Minnesota state house legislators passed a bill that would grant marriage to same sex couples. I watched most the live stream from the state house. The above picture is of the roll call for who was going to vote for the bill. This entire post is going to be dedicated to what I saw this evening and why America needs more of it. The session started a noon and went on until about 4 roughly. I had tuned in when Karen Clark, author and main sponsor of the bill, was detailing just how the bill would provide protections and exemptions for religious groups that disagreed with the passage of the bill. One of the anti-gay camp's main battle cries is that once same sex marriage becomes law churches will be forced to marry same sex couples against their wishes or risk getting the papal collar sued off them. Congresswoman Clark extensively broke it down to explain why in technical terms a load of bullshit.
Then one congressman made a proposed amendment to the bill that would make all marriage gays or straight into civil unions and then reserve marriage for churches only. Yeah that didn't fly over so well. That got voted down with such a fierceness you could feel the legislative bitch slap to the congressman who proposed it through the computer screen. Hell even my cheek was a little sore. Then arguments pertaining to the non fucked up bill started and them games begun.
Local politics are always fun to watch because the elected officials give a little insight into the kind of people who actually live there. The people who came before us today were an assortment of subtly quirky Minnesota folk who all could fit every stereotype about people from the Midwest. From the perky beauty queen who you could tell was struggling to sound educated to the genteel rural farm owner who had of bite left in him. You saw the stay at home moms who recently got into politics, the agitated suburban bible thumper who was making an effort not scream 'them gosh darn faggots are in the building' to the cute and sexy frat boy who's dad probably bought him the election. It was like watching an episode of Parks and Recreation minus the actual vitriol and apparent lack of sanity.
There were the typical standard tropes of political debate speeches: out of context quotations from some ancient political figure bent to unrecognition. There was the restrained attempts to appeal to people's desire for traditionalism. Everyone seemed to be ducking and dodging religious arguments on the Republican side to not seem like the same old fashioned brand of stupid. Whereas on the Democratic side every single person was going for the holy jugular because Karen Clark don't fuck around. It was like they all met the night before and decided to snatch the GOP's wig regardless of whether or not they chose to wear one. We all know what the Republicans meant when they decreed 'what about the children?' or 'the welfare of the family'. They were going for religious arguments without exactly saying them. Hell Tim Kelly tried to spin giving everyone civil unions into 'an act of removing discrimination from our statues!' His words, not mine.
I watched intently as one by one each and everybody who had an opinion offered one. There was something I picked up on that most of the legislators there picked up on as well. There was such a level of respect in the room for everyone on both sides of the issue. While at the same time you could feel the heat in the room. It was a quiet debate hall where one could faintly here the sounds of those in the gallery bellow from on high. This mix of polite political piloting reminded me almost of a calm Sunday brunch where all those involved were sitting on the patio of someone's backyard enjoying pickled herring and lemonade while discussing what to do about this matter of 'the gays'. There was this silent tension that I feel was almost more nerve wrecking than the boisterous verbal knivings one may hear on the congressional floors in Washington. There is something that the national congressmen and congresswomen could learn from these simple Minnesota folk.
I've watched many a congressional hearing in my day and let me say it was nothing like what I saw today. How so? Let's just say Nancy Pelosi comes with an AK. Those collectives sons and daughters of bitches don't bullshit around. The debates often turn personal, petty and headache inducing. It's like watching a middle school debate team trying to discuss how to handle a sequester. It's pathetic. There is not as much of an exchange of ideas on policy as there is bickering about party related stances. In the hearing I heard today the phrase 'vote with your conscience, vote for you constituents' was said so often I was expecting them to hand out t-shirts with it written on the front. But you know what? The House and Senate in Washington should start going by this more. Let's take the recent bitchfest over gun rights. If half of the people who voted down the proposed gun bill followed the same methodology as those simple Minnesota statesmen and stateswomen I bet you everything it would of passed. Partisan politics is tearing Washington and our country apart.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with being gay? Well to me it has everything to do with being gay. Unfortunately for now the sexualities me the lesbian couple who lives across from me, the punkish kid who cruises round town on his motorbike with his boyfriend on the back, the teacher at the school down the road who just got engaged, the trash collector who prays his partner doesn't get into an accident, the corrections officer who married the love of his life out of state, the two teenage girls who kiss on the back of the transit bus while they hope no one is looking, the law student who studies hard everyday and night so he can a job where he can provide for his future husband and children, the Marine who just got back from deployment and is greeted by his partner Brian and two children, the interracial lesbian couple who are just bringing their daughter home for the first time, the mailman who picked up extra hours to pay for his son's wedding in New York and the cheerleader who everyone calls Erin but is legally Aaron, all of our sexualities are a political issue. Politicians and religious group leaders discuss openly as if we are some sort of foreign element. They banter over our rights like we all hail from the island of Fag. They condemn us without caution and demonize with us delight. They raise millions upon millions of dollars so state by state they can tell all of us who don't fit into the norm we ain't worth shit now go back to doing my hair for my wedding, something you will never have. Go back to designing the nursery for the child I am having, a joy I voted against you having. Trot back into your closet and close your lips and be the second class citizen you chose to be. Or you can join us normals but don't even think for one second we are going to validate you.
But you see this is the beauty of this session in St.Paul because for the first time in a long time people who did not agree with us politically did not attack us personally. Did/do I still think they are full of shit? With every fiber in my body yes I do. But I respect that they respected us. This was refreshing. This was beautiful. This made me cry. Shoot there were even a few Republicans who DID admit that we had loving relationships and families and derserved legal protections. Of course they were touting civil unions as the solution to our problems I still respected that. They gave us back a piece of our humanity that for too long had been stolen from us as we were kicked to the ground. We have come so far from where we were in the late 60's and the 70's when we were just asking if we could have a job, have an apartment, have a beer and not get raided, have a kiss and not get arrested. Here we are now on 2013 having a polite discourse over the topic of whether we should be allowed to marry. There are some of us who hate that is an issue at all and wish our rights could just be given to us. We all know that is not the reality we live in. But today we were awakened to our reality. Our reality is a long fought war. Our reality is a bloody knife fight of legal setbacks and referendums and political lobbying and litigation. Our reality is a scrambling for out asses amid the incoming bombs of legalized ignorance. This is our reality. This is our world. This is our war. And today we won.