This is for what I get for being too young to remember any of the Civil Rights Movement.
Today, my attention at work was focused on my iPhone. I was following Twitter and the debates that transpired in the Senate chamber of the Minnesota legislature. Hours of debate ensued – sometimes affirming, sometimes contentious. But, I had to experience it from my cube at my day job.
It was no different than the previous Thursday, when the House chamber took up HF1054 – the bill to change the language of the Defense of Marriage Act in Minnesota towards an inclusive writ for all couples to marry in the eyes of the state. After a series of amendments and some debate, the House passed the bill 75-59.
Thursday turned into Monday. I felt the world was at edge. There were plenty of assurances that it would pass, but there were plenty of skeptics. The pundits considered the Senate safe for passage, compared to the House. I was just as nervous as anyone.
From both Facebook and Twitter, I noticed a lot of people that were there at the capitol. They ranged from close friends to colleagues to people known in the community. Everyone I knew was supporting the passage of SF925 – the Senate’s version of HF1054. Capitol security was going to cap capacity at 4,000, so I was glad I commuted to work instead.
The afternoon opened up as the air became warmer. The Senate chamber went to work on SF925. It was not without its curve balls – from amendments to some of the most veiled hatred ever recorded on the chamber’s floor. One would think we have turned back the clock to the 1950s.
One such argument heard in both chambers revolved around the notion that by extended marriage rights to same-gender couples would harm the act of parenting. “We must protect the children!” I heard this rally cry and wondered if they have become the battleground for LGBT rights in this country. This is a sensitive subject because I am not a parent. Yet, I have seen both good parenting and bad – by all types of families. It just seems the same as putting children as protection against enemy fire – an extreme vision, but from one view, very apt.
In both debates, the word “bigot” came up as a way to deflect a deeply felt hatred by the other side of the “other.” I often refer to the struggle for LGBT rights to the battle against the Apartheid system in South Africa. Though I missed the temper of this country’s Civil Rights Movement, my contemporary reference point was seen through the struggle against a majority of people as ruled by a minority race. The arguments Afrikaners had to maintain rule over African and other non-Caucasian races had been a sense of superiority through religious texts and generalized falsehoods about the “other.” These tactics are similar to those who seek to rid American society of LGBT peoples. In both examples, the term “bigot” is apt – as driven by superiority of the status quo over people who are seen as lesser human kind.
If there is a flashpoint to all of this – I do take the shielding of bigotry personally. A quote by the late South African activist Steven Biko seems apt in my response of the shielding of bigotry by the legislators and others who use it as a defense:
“I am going to be, as I am. And, you can beat me, or jail me, or even kill me. But, I am not going to what you want me to be!”
The debate in the state Senate went on for longer than the actual debate in House. It got to the point as to when the vote will occur. We knew that when both Senators Scott Dibble and Tom Bakk would speak, SF925 would come to a vote.
The chamber voted – a 37-30 margin passing SF925. It was closer than some people thought, but the deal was done. The bill to open the door for same-gender couples to legally wed has become Minnesota law.
My reaction? At first, there was relief. Then, there was glee. I posted on Twitter and Facebook my reaction by using the battle cry of the struggle against Apartheid: “Amandla! Awethu!” Translated in Xhosa, it means “Power to the People!”
Yet, there was anger. One opposing legislator suggested that the passage of the bill would create a division in the state harkening back to the Civil War. I often wondered whether such divisions would exist. Would I be treated differently for being gay after this day when I venture further into my work as an automotive writer in outlying parts of the state?
It will take a lot of healing amongst the divided to move forward in this state. I, too, have to work on that. I will admit some anger at those who supported the marriage amendment in the fall and openly call for the failure of the bills this spring. But, I will not throw a stone at my enemy. It is not in my nature to do so.
On the task of celebration, how do I do so? Today, I do so quietly as I relax from the day. I know I have some work to do for my outlets, but I need time to reflect.
Hell, I could use a hug – maybe a shoulder to cry my tears of joy on.