Morris Human Rights Commission
As Election Day approaches, the Morris Human Rights Commission would like to share with you the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) official statement on the proposed Marriage Amendment. The MDHR is a neutral state agency that investigates charges of illegal discrimination, ensures that businesses seeking state contracts are in compliance with equal opportunity requirements, and strives to eliminate discrimination by educating Minnesotans about their rights and responsibilities under the state Human Rights Act.
In the November 2012 election, Minnesota's voters will be asked to decide whether to amend Minnesota's Constitution to permanently limit the freedom to marry for same sex couples in our state. The question on the ballot will read: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only the union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"
In vetoing the proposal to put the Amendment on November's ballot, Governor Mark Dayton urged Minnesotans to reject the Amendment, calling it divisive, un-Minnesotan and un-American. The Governor noted that the authors of our Declaration of Independence intended that governments be formed to secure every citizen's rights, not to selectively deny them or take them away. The U.S. Constitution guarantees all Americans equal rights and protections under the law, and that would clearly include the right of a citizen to marry the person he or she loves, Governor Dayton believes.
Whether Minnesotans vote no or yes on this Amendment, there will be no change in Minnesota law regarding same sex marriage - same sex couples will still be unable to legally marry. But a yes vote will permanently and unnecessarily change Minnesota's Constitution. It will constitutionally limit the freedom of same sex couples to ever marry in Minnesota, and prevent future generations from participating in a conversation about marriage and who should be able to make this lifelong commitment.
A no vote will simply allow the conversation to move forward, and Minnesotans to continue to examine the issues with the guidance of lawmakers, business leaders, clergy, advocates of both sides of the issue, and their own hearts.
This is an important conversation - for the sake of freedom and equal rights, for the welfare of our children and our society, and for Minnesota's economy. In the past few months, a growing number of Minnesota business leaders have spoken out, calling the Marriage Amendment bad for Minnesota's business climate. An environment that respects diversity and is welcoming to everyone is essential for Minnesota companies to recruit and hire the very best talent. But the Marriage Amendment sends the wrong message, and would make it more difficult for our companies to compete and our economy to grow. Those are among the reasons that leaders of world-class Minnesota companies including General Mills, Carlson Companies, St. Jude Medical, and Thomson Reuters have strongly opposed the Amendment.
Others who have spoken out in opposition to the Amendment include health professionals, from the Minnesota Nurses Association to the Minnesota Psychological Association, to the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. If to business leaders, the Marriage Amendment is an economic issue, to these medical professions, it's a public health issue. Simply put, the Amendment "would be harmful to the health and well-being of children and adolescents," these pediatricians say. They point out that those in the GLBT community risk bullying and violence as result of discrimination, and amending the State's Constitution to limit their freedom to marry could add to the social stigma they face every day.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Edward P. Ehlinger also considers the Marriage Amendment a major public health issue. "Marriage can be a significant contributor to better physical and mental health regardless of sexual orientation," Commissioner Ehlinger pointed out in a recent commentary in the Star Tribune. In the view of Minnesota's top public health official, the increasing evidence of the health benefits of marriage "highlights the fact that, from a health perspective, it is unacceptable to deny the benefits of marriage to any committed couple."
Marriage is about love, commitment and responsibility. These are core values that provide stability to families and entire communities. Minnesota's same sex couples seek to make the same commitment and share in the same joys and responsibilities as opposite sex couples. In joining with business and civic leaders, our governor, and thousands of other Minnesotans in opposing this Amendment, all they ask is that this important conversation about the role of marriage continue, and that they be allowed to make their case.
You can read more about the Minnesota Department of Human Rights online at www.humanrights.state.mn.us. Next week's article will focus on one Commission member's perspective on marriage.