Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Minnesota Moves Towards Statewide Vote on Constitutional Ban for Gay Marriage

As an update to my several recent postings about the role the Catholic leaders of Minnesota are now seeking to play in the political life of that heavily Catholic state, particularly in attacking its gay citizens: at the end of last week, the judiciary committee of the Minnesota senate passed a bill that will call for a statewide vote to amend the state's constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.  The bill now goes to the state legislature, which has been Republican-controlled since the 2010 elections, and is likely to pass at that level.

This is a step that Minnesota Republicans have been maneuvering to take for some years now, but which they've been thwarted in taking by Democratic legislative majorities in the past.   It is a step explicitly endorsed by the Catholic bishops in Minnesota, who want to assure that their state does not follow the example of the neighboring state of Iowa and permit civil marriage for same-sex couples.

It's difficult to predict the outcome of this statewide vote, if this constitutional amendment does, indeed, receive legislative approval.  Numerous historical examples demonstrate that, given the opportunity to do so, the majority will almost always vote to deny rights to minorities.  This becomes even more likely in times of economic and cultural difficulty, when the feel-good effect of finding a stigmatized minority on which to vent anger and even hatred is appealing for many citizens.  And when that feel-good effect is actively cultivated and even blessed by religious leaders, those calling for human decency in deliberations about the human rights of a targeted minority often find themselves not making much of a dent at all on the consciousness of many people.

Constitutions, and the court system in the U.S., are set up precisely to protect minority groups from the tyranny of the majority, by articulating foundational principles to which everyone must adhere in order to build an inclusive civil society, and by assuring legal protection for those principles when they are attacked--as they always are--by those intent on discriminating.

For those who want to follow the Minnesota situation and read about it in depth, Michael Bayly (who lives in St. Paul) is providing his usual stellar commentary at his Wild Reed blog and the Progressive Catholic blog.  A selection of recent articles by Michael that I recommend:

The day will come--and it is not far down the road in much of the developed world--when the leaders of the Catholic church in the late 20th century and first part of the 21st century will be judged very harshly for their active support of legalized discrimination against a vulnerable minority group.  As a majority of American Catholics turn against such discrimination, the willingness of the U.S. bishops actively to promote it and to see it enshrined in legal documents begins to appear less and less like a demonstration of Christian charity, and more and more like a political decision that is willing to make the lives of some human beings miserable to serve the interests and goals of an elite group within the society--to whom the leaders of the Catholic church have handed over their souls and forfeited the future of the church they lead.

In a state that has constantly been in the national news for several years now due to the number of teen suicides in which bullying because of perceived sexual orientation has played a key role, you'd think the leaders of a group looking to Jesus as its founder would find other ways to spend their time and energy.  Wouldn't you?

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