I have been closely following the Minnesota marriage amendment ever since it was on the minds of Minnesota representatives back in spring 2011 when I lobbied against it. This amendment aims to write discrimination into the state constitution by getting Minnesotans to vote yes on this amendment. The frustration being, it is already illegal for gay couples to get married in the state. The grassroots organization Minnesota United for All Families aims to be the first state to defeat such a proposed amendment. As many other states have failed to defeat similar proposals across the United States, what is the state of Minnesota doing differently to defeat this amendment?
1. Taking off the weight – A key component to the strategy is the grassroots organization Minnesota United for All Families. In some states, the established LGBTQ organizations tried to take on the amendment on their own. In Minnesota, an effort was made to create an organization that specifically focused on defeating the amendment. Instead of OUTfront, Minnesota’s primary LGBTQ advocacy group, taking on the amendment alone, Minnesota United for All Families is able to take on the amendment while taking the weight off from OUTfront.
2. Many hands make light work – It has surfaced that in other states, organizations have failed to work together for a similar cause. Luckily, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, MPIRG has jumped on board with Minnesota United for All Families to help advocate to defeat this amendment. MPIRG has tabled getting people to pledge to vote no on the amendment and has organized public events to raise awareness about the amendment. It is nice to have another large group advocating for equality as this year progresses.
3. Changing the language – The most fascinating change in the approach to defeating amendments such as these is the language used to get people on board to vote no. Instead of discussing human rights and financial inequality, Minnesotans are using the same language that straight couples would use when discussing the reasons behind getting married. Same sex couples have the same values and goals when trying to get married. Directly from MN United – “We believe marriage and family are about love and commitment, working together, bettering the community, raising children, and growing old together. We believe in a Minnesota that values and supports strong families and creates a welcoming environment for all Minnesota families to thrive. And we believe marriage matters. To all.”
4. Offering incentives – Minnesota United for All Families offered an internship for college students who oppose this amendment. They said they would work with college faculty to allow the internship to count as a credit in class. What better way to get people on board then to offer free credits and on the ground experience that can be used on the resume. This is an excellent opportunity for political science majors to get their hands dirty.
5. Training on the conversations – Minnesota United for All Families held training for individuals to start the conversation on gay marriage. (I attended two of these trainings.) They had workshops to talk about what marriage means to the individual, to discuss the facts concerning gay and lesbian marriage, as well as to have practice conversations with individuals about why it is important to defeat such a discriminatory amendment. Though, from here, many individuals had Vote No house parties where friends and families got together to discuss the amendment and pledged to vote no. After the training occurred, proper and effective conversation starting to begin and continue to occur across the state. This with the aim to defeat the amendment.