To the editor:
Our nation and our small town of New Ulm are engaged in a crucial conversation about why marriage matters. Public support for the freedom to marry continues to grow, with polls consistently showing majority support nationwide. According to the Freedom to Marry Report from November 2011, more than 11 percent of Americans now live in jurisdictions that provide the freedom to marry; and over 40 percent (a total of 130 million) live in jurisdictions that provide some measure of recognition for same sex couples and their loved ones. That's up from virtually zero in 2001.
Although support for freedom to marry is at an all-time high, Americans continue to waver in their position on marriage. These are friends, family and neighbors of our community that are good and fair people. They have deeply held beliefs, and they have internal conflicts and uncertainties about gay people and marriage. It's OK to feel conflicted! I would like to remind our community why marriage is so important to gay and lesbian couples.
Marriage matters to gay people in similar ways that it matters to everyone. Gay and lesbian couples want to get married because they want to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love and they want to protect their family with the same rights that other couples have. Marriage says "We are family" in a way that no other word does. Marriage strengthens families. It gives couples the tools and security to build a life together and protect their family. Couples get married because they want to support one another in sickness and health. State and federal marriage laws provide a safety net of legal and economic protections for married couples and their children-including the ability to visit your spouse in the hospital and to transfer property. In many states, same-sex couples have been barred from a dying partner's bedside in the hospital. That does not happen when you're married. Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry does not change the meaning of marriage. No religion would be forced to marry same-sex couples, or recognize same-sex marriages within the con text of their religious beliefs. All couples who marry must get a license for a civil marriage at a courthouse or city hall. These civil marriages would also be available to same-sex couples.
As a proud LGBTQ Ally, I would like to welcome the conversation and help those undecided push past their discomfort through positive discussion of marriage. I was raised in this community with the Golden Rule as one of my basic values. The rule states "Do onto others as you would have them do unto you." Denying someone the right to happiness of marriage-just because they're gay-seems hurtful to me. I cannot imagine what it would feel like if someone told me that I couldn't marry the person I loved. How would that make you feel? Marriage is a basic freedom. It should not be denied to anyone. Vote No, Minnesota. Because in our country, freedom means freedom; for EVERYONE.