Minnesota Same Sex Marriage Bill

The Republican dominated Minnesota Legislature got almost nothing done over the last two years that they were in power. But they did manage to put two boneheaded constitutional amendments on the ballot for last November, one to restrict voting rights in a way that Republicans would have a better chance of winning, the other making it unconstitutional for same sex couples to marry. Same sex marriage was already illegal in the state, but the GOP saw the handwriting on the wall and knew that this legal restriction would not last, so they imposed the amendment on us.

Both of those amendments were resoundingly defeated by the good people of Minnesota. And now, there is a bill before the Democratic Party ruled legislature that would allow same sex marriage if it is passed.

Of note: Many religious organizations came out in recent committee hearings on both sides of the issue, but Minnesota Atheists took a different tact. They came out in favor of the bill, but noted that this is not a religious issue at all. August Berkshire of Minnesota Atheist provided the following moving testimony:

Minnesota Atheists Testifies in Favor of Marriage Equality

(Testimony by August Berkshire, representing Minnesota Atheists, at a Minnesota House Civil Law Committee hearing, in favor of the bill HF 1054, changing state law to allow for marriage equality. March 12, 2013, 6:00 p.m. The bill passed the committee on a 10-7 party line vote – Democrats for, Republicans against. The 9 p.m. “FOX at 9” local TV news on channel 9 reported that the bill’s “supporters ranged from Catholics to atheists.” Earlier that day a companion bill passed a Minnesota Senate committee. The bill now moves to the full legislature, which will vote on it after they have passed a budget.)

Thank you, Mr. Chair; Committee Members. My name is August Berkshire and I represent Minnesota Atheists, our state’s oldest, largest, and most active atheist organization.

We view this as a matter of separation of church and state. It can be confusing because the same word, “marriage,” is used for both a civil contract and a religious ceremony. But we must keep in mind that these are two separate things.

Today you may hear testimony from some people that their god is in favor of same-sex marriage, and testimony from other people that their god is opposed to same-sex marriage. Fortunately, that’s not a debate you have to resolve. Government laws must have a secular basis.

The best secular arguments in favor of same-sex marriage are the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and the fact that long-term relationships, gay or straight, help to stabilize society.

In our opinion, there are no secular arguments against same-sex marriage that hold up to scrutiny. Many of these arguments were also used 50 years ago to oppose interracial marriage.

I would like to end on a personal note. My partner, Rachel, and I are heterosexuals and we have been together for 17 years. We are both atheists, and so we will not be getting married in a church, synagogue, or mosque. Instead, we will seek a judge to perform a civil marriage ceremony.

However, we will not get married until it is legal for everyone, because how can we stand up in front of family and friends, some of whom happen to be gay and lesbian, on what is supposed to be the happiest day of our lives, knowing that this happiness is not available to them as well?

So please pass this pro-marriage bill and make civil marriage available to everyone. Thank you.

If you want to sign a petition to encourage the legislature to do the right thing, visit the newly redesigned Minnesota Progressive Project web site and look for the petition on the right sidebar.

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