Minnesota Is Working to Make History

Thirty-one states have banned same-sex marriage and Minnesota is the next state to consider a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as something that only occurs between man and woman. If the amendment is defeated, Minnesota will make history.

If it isn't, we will be forced to amend more than our constitution. A story we Minnesotans have told ourselves for years is that we are nice. We help neighbors, strangers, and friends without being asked and without being intrusive. We are, we say, "Minnesota Nice."

But this amendment, seeking to limit people's basic freedoms, is anything but nice. Many of us around the state are working hard to ensure Minnesota makes history.

Minnesotans have never been afraid of hard work. From the Iron Range of northern Minnesota to the bluff country of southeastern Minnesota, the opponents of the amendment are doing what they can to make sure we claim our page in the history books.

Church ladies in the conservative suburban of Eden Prairie are raising their rainbow flags in support of the LGBT community.

Firefighters in Duluth, on the shores of Lake Superior, have passed a resolution against the amendment.

In suburban Minneapolis, Lori Wilfahrt, mother of a gay soldier killed in Afghanistan, is marching in local parades alongside her husband, Jeff, a man moved to run for public office specifically to defeat this amendment as a way of honoring their son, Andrew.

I am in Winona, a small town tucked between southeastern bluffs and the banks of the Mississippi. I gathered over 50 women from every sector of our population -- nurses, teachers, librarians, social workers, at-home mothers, business leaders -- to raise funds for Minnesota United, a key advocacy group fighting the amendment. Women around our state held similar fundraisers.

But most of all, we are talking. We've learned from the 31 failures that came before us. Gay people assumed their friends would vote. Straight people assumed high turn-out would mean their vote wasn't crucial. Both groups were wrong.

And so we are sharing our stories and asking people as "Minnesota Nice"-ly as we can to vote against the amendment. Every story told puts a human face on why this vote matters to us. Every face is a person deserving of compassion and basic civil rights. This, we believe, is the backbone of our campaign.

My own story is the best kind of boring. When my sister came out to my parents well over 20 years ago in rural Iowa, they said, "Angie, we love you no matter what you are." Whatever personal angst my parents may have felt never made its way into our family's story. Angie received love and total acceptance and that was that.

When the amendment was placed on the ballot, I woke up to how radical my story actually was simply because I started to tell it. And because I am talking, I have heard from former students, friends, and complete strangers whose own stories are full of loss, self-loathing, and years of endured bullying. I met a young man who was sent to a week-long camp designed to, in his own words, "pray the gay away." It didn't work, and this failure remains his constant companion.

Parents of gay children who live in my school district thank me (always privately) for using my voice for people like their own kids. They just can't speak out because they are scared for their child and their job. I shake my head and fight my tears because I live in a state where palpable fear outweighs defending your own children.

But then I get back to work because a strong work ethic is another point of pride in Minnesota. I am driven by my boring story, determined that everyone deserves the same total acceptance my parents gave my sister, my siblings, and me.

But first, Minnesotans need to re-examine what it really means to be "Minnesota Nice."

I want to believe Minnesota is ready to make history.

I want to believe we will look back 20 years from now and laugh at this debate.

I want to believe gay people will finally understand how much we value their voice and place in Minnesota.

I want to believe that gay people, along with their families, will feel welcome.

I want to believe their lives will be, in the best way, boring.