by Mark Jenkins at independenceminnesota.org:
The Independence Party of Minnesota platform declares that “We support high standards of morality, family values and personal responsibility, but we oppose having the government impose state-sponsored morality or values on people of good conscience with differing views.” With this principle in mind, I ask members of the Independence Party, and all Minnesotans, to oppose and work to defeat an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that outlaws same sex marriage.
Please read on to understand my personal reasons for defeating this proposed amendment.
Minnesota’s legislators recently passed a bill that puts the future of gay marriage on your ballot in November of 2012. The radical right is convinced that Minnesotans will approve the constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. The liberal left is concerned that the right may be right.
As is often the case, it seems that Minnesota needs to look at divisive issues from a different angle. Believe it or not, it is possible to understand and support both sides of the issue.
In Defense of Marriage
While I oppose the proposed amendment, I do recognize that marriage is a religious sacrament that is governed by hundreds of years of tradition and religious law. Canon law, Halakha and Sharia all define marriage for their respective faiths. It would be appalling to allow our government to dictate to any religion how to administer their sacraments. Anti-gay marriage activists have used this vision of marriage to rally religious leaders to their cause. Unfortunately, the defenders of gay-marriage have also attached their message and their goals to this same word. I understand how conservatives can perceive those messages as attacks on their religious doctrines. We must recognize the religious communities’ rights to define the sacrament of marriage without political interference.
In Defense of Civil Rights
Where anti-gay marriage activists have used the sacrament of marriage to define the argument, the real issue for people who support gay marriage has not been the definition of a single word, but the collection of individual civil rights that accompany that religious sacrament. For this reason I would argue that gay marriage activists are more interested in civil rights than religious rights. When asked if the government should dictate who can visit them in the hospital, the majority of conservatives I spoke to declared absolutely not. When asked if an individual should have the right to choose their own beneficiary in the case of death, the majority said yes. Unfortunately, these decisions are predetermined when the state ties those rights to the sacrament of marriage. We must recognize that individual civil rights are much easier to defend than the definition of one divisive word.
In Defense of Reason
Instead of arguing over the definition of marriage, gay rights supporters should be advocating for equal individual access to the civil rights currently reserved for married couples. If we can focus our attention on the issues of civil rights instead of marriage, we may extend the rights all of our citizen’s deserve without threatening the sacrament of marriage. I’m pretty optimistic that this could work. I hear that individual rights have a big following in conservative circles. If conservatives stay true to their beliefs, gays may just find conservative allies in the pursuit of their individual rights.
“We oppose having the government impose state-sponsored morality or values on people of good conscience with differing views.” This is why I oppose legislation or a constitutional amendment that puts any government imposed definition on a religious sacrament. Individual civil rights are why I support providing every Minnesotan the same rights and opportunities provided to any other Minnesotan. Please join me and the Independence Party of Minnesota in protecting every Minnesotan’s individual rights.