Project 515 and Marriage Equality in Minnesota

So, Connecticut has become the 3rd state in the union to legalize gay marriage. The fine folks of Connecticut came to this place via lawsuit. A number of gay couples, upon having their marriage license applications rejected, banded together and sued the state.

As you’ll recall, there is a group preparing to bring a similar lawsuit against the state of Minnesota.

It is the stated opinion of a number of Minnesota’s most-respected LGBT advocacy organizations — namely Rainbow Families/Family Equality Council, OutFront Minnesota, and Project 515 — that legislation is the way to go, not litigation.

From Project 515’s website:

Project 515… is a focused initiative with a specific, achievable goal: to ensure that same sex couples and their families have equal rights and considerations under Minnesota law….

Project 515 will execute a multi-year plan to secure equal rights for Minnesota’s same sex couples and their families through public advocacy and legislative and political advocacy.

From RF/FEC’s website:

Family Equality Council, Out Front Minnesota and Project 515 want to inform Minnesotans on the significant risks lawsuits pose to achieving marriage equality in Minnesota. Read the “Statement Regarding Legal Strategies to Achieve Marriage Equality” (pdf) to keep yourself up-to-date on the best ways to achieve marriage equality moving forward.

And from that Statement Regarding Legal Strategies to Achieve Marriage Equality (pdf):

The Minnesota Supreme Court already ruled against marriage equality in 1971. Courts follow precedents, and this increases the chance of an unfavorable ruling in a new case here. The consequences of another unfavorable ruling could be sever: negative rulings elsewhere have already set our movement back by further solidifying a fundamental legal inequality for gay and lesbian couples. While two states’ highest courts have narrowly ruled in favor of marriage equality, at least five states’ highest courts have, in effect, agreed with Minnesota, making a favorable decision that much less likely.

For more information on Project 515, visit, read this Lavender Mag article by Project 515 board member Jane Bowman, and/or join Project 515’s facebook group.

When you’re done with all that, visit Marriage Equality Minnesota. It’s “an all volunteer association dedicated to establishing full, equal, legal marriage rights for same-sex couples in the state of Minnesota.” Interestingly, Marriage Equality Minnesota has (limited) information both on potential litigation and on the legislation proposed in the state house and senate in May of this year, neither of which seem to be going anywhere at the moment. A fair number of couples with money to spend are needed to bear the cost of the lawsuit. I believe the bill never made it out of committee.

The Marriage And Family Protection Act is a marriage equality bill that was brought to Minnesota lawmakers by an individual citizen who spent years protesting for same-sex marriage rights at floor sessions of the Minnesota legislature. The bill was introduced in the Senate on May 16, 2008 (SF3880) and in the House on May 17, 2008 (HF4248), sponsored by a total of 19 lawmakers.

That’s an awfully interesting choice of title. That’s typically how people arguing against marriage equality like to label their cause: as “protecting families.”

Anyway, all 19 of those lawmakers are listed and linked to, so give ’em a little vote love where you can on November 4.

Marriage equality is not a hotbutton issue in this year’s general election, but it’s an ongoing fight. I agree with the rationale behind a preferred legislative approach; Supreme Court decisions in Connecticut and in California could be overturned by voters on election day. In California, Proposition 8, if passed, would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. California voters are encouraged to Vote No on Prop 8. In Connecticut, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a convening of a constitutional convention; the purpose of the convention would be to re-write the portion of their state consitution that was open to the interpretation the state Supreme Court made in favor of marriage equality so that no such interpretation could be made again.

I’m honestly not optimistic about significant change in the near future in Minnesota, but I know some good people who are working their asses off for it. All I’m asking is for every one of you to please read and understand how gay families in Minnesota are affected by the lack of marriage equality (pdf).

By the way, I’m increasingly disenchanted with the term “gay marriage” because…

  1. …it reinforces the normative state of straight marriage. It’s the privilege of straight people to simply say “marriage” when they mean “straight marriage.”
  2. …what we’re talking about is marriage equality, not a special/different kind of marriage for gay couples.
  3. …it’s a lightning rod for religious objectors, for whom this should have no bearing whatsoever.

Besides, as I’ve said before, marriage is not the be-all/end-all of civil rights for lgbt folks and/or the general population, but it sure does kill a lot of birds with one stone.

5 Comments so far

  1. JasonT (minn_jasont) on October 13th, 2008 @ 9:31 am

    The Proposition 8 dilemma, if passed, will create an interesting phenomenon in California. From what I understand, it will not void current marriages between people of the same gender, but will not allow any future marriages to take place. There are tons of same-sex couples rushing to get married before hand, "just in case."

    So what you’ll have is a not-insignificant number of same-sex marriages, but no more after that. Because of that, even if it does pass *shudder*, I’m hoping that it won’t stand up to much scrutiny. Hopefully it won’t pass, and we won’t have to worry about that.

  2. kevinfromminneapolis on October 13th, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

    Those groups just want legislation because it gives them more power. They can’t do anything with litigation, and that’s just not something they can stomach.

  3. Erica M (ericam) on October 13th, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

    So you’re saying that litigation is a better way to get the job done?

  4. kevinfromminneapolis on October 13th, 2008 @ 9:06 pm

    I couldn’t care less. I’m just saying that the reason all those groups oppose litigation is that they have considerably less power with litigation as compared to legislation. They’re not going to support anything that marginalizes their influence.

  5. Erica M (ericam) on October 13th, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

    Enh, I think the argument in favor of legislation is a good one. Project 515 was founded just to do this in an orderly fashion. Otherwise they could’ve thrown more dollars at OutFront. And they’re advocacy groups. What else would they be doing? It’s part of their mission. And if they don’t do it, who will?

    A court ruling is still potentially subject to a vote by the people. Why not just get the people’s vote to begin with?

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