Those who have read this blog on previous occasions might have noticed that every so often I commend the Villager community newspaper for its sterling coverage of Saint Paul neighborhood issues. My wife and I often depend on that coverage for the most in depth information concerning things that impact us where we live in Macalester-Groveland and for news relevant to greater Saint Paul.
So it was not without some dismay last September 12th that I read a letter to the editor of the Villager from a woman named Jennifer Kowalewski that was so full of insults and bigotry directed at the gay community that I paused to wonder why any respected publication would publish it, let alone give it nearly half a page of what is generally no more than a 36 page newspaper. In it, Kowalewski claimed that homosexuals are much more promiscuous than heterosexuals and are prone to deep bouts of depression accompanied by excessive illegal drug use. While claiming that studies showed these things to be true, she didn't bother to cite any of her sources. Instead, she brought them forth as valid reasons for voting "yes" to the upcoming constitutional marriage amendment referendum that would effectively write into our state constitution a law that would deprive a segment of our population of their civil rights. In doing so, this law could not be overturned through simple legislation. It would either have to be challenged in court or be brought forth for repeal through another referendum. Of course, she claimed no prejudice against same sex couples in her diatribe. Instead, she insisted that the amendment was good for everyone since, after all, this all about the children; and how can anyone believe that children could be raised in a stable environment when separated from one or both biological parents? I have an adopted cousin who is the principal of a Catholic school in New Jersey who might claim otherwise, but I digress.
I didn't write anything here in response to that letter since I wasn't really sure what the editors had in mind when they published it, and I just figured that enough of my neighbors would find it offensive enough to respond directly to the Villager. I wasn't disappointed by that, since many of them did. I guess I was hoping that the Villager was trying to be even handed in publishing opinions from both sides, and maybe this particular opinion was the best they had to offer in that regard. I also thought that maybe they were trying to provoke outrage from the community in order to motivate those of us who might not be speaking out on behalf of those who stand to lose the most by the passage of the referendum. By the looks of the vast majority of letters they published in the October 10th edition, they certainly achieved that. However, a column written by co-editor Dale Mischke in the Viewpoint section of that issue showed that this provocation was purely unintentional.
In that column, Mischke mentions how state Representative Michael Paymar, in a letter to the Villager, claimed that the proposed amendment would limit civil rights and how, in another letter, Dale Smith of Growth and Justice stated that it would "cast in constitutional stone the second-class status of gays and lesbians." He also mentioned the Kowalewski letter claiming that it "outlined historical and cultural reasons for defining marriage as between one man and one woman." He then went on to cite statistics that he asserted show how marriage, which he called the "backbone of the family", was under assault from all sides.
This is where he really goes off the rail. In some sort of convoluted reasoning that only he can explain, he seems to equate the act of depriving civil rights to a certain group of people with the preservation of the institution of marriage without offering any provable causation or logical connection between the two. Instead, he just continues to play the role of a fear monger by stating, "Redefining marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry may make it easier for them to share health insurance policies, visit relatives in the hospital or pass their estate on to a loved one at death, but what will it do to the institution of marriage?"
Well, Mr. Mischke, here is the answer to your question: It will do nothing to the institution of marriage except make it accessible to everyone. As for your claim that allowing same sex couples to marry "may make it easier" so on and so forth, allow me to correct to you. It will finally make it POSSIBLE.
My brother Gerard and his partner Charles have been in a loving, committed and faithful relationship for thirty years. Yet because they live in Florida and because there is no federal law protecting them from discrimination when it comes to having the right to marry, their union is not legally recognized. On the other hand, two people of the opposite sex can fly to Las Vegas, get drunk at a bar, meet at the craps table, fall into the Elvis Chapel and get hitched; and that is legally sanctioned.
My brother served his country for over thirty years, first as the chief USDA inspector at Miami International Airport and later as the acting head of Homeland Security for the ports of Miami and Key West. During the Mariel boatlift, he was in charge of processing the Cuban refugees and inspecting their boats and possessions in order to ensure that our food supply remained safe and that our agriculture industry was not decimated by blights and invasive insects. Nevertheless, his partner is not entitled to the same benefits awarded to the spouses of heterosexuals due to the fact that they are not allowed to marry. The only reason they are not allowed this basic right is because they are of the same sex and are homosexuals. That is bigotry plain and simple.
Mishke goes on in his homophobic screed to quote some outlandish statements from Minnesota for Marriage that have absolutely no basis in fact nor the tiniest shred of evidence to support them. According to that organization, redefining the institution of marriage will result in a massive increase in poverty. It is hard for me to believe that a sound minded individual would agree with such a thing, let alone repeat it; but, when bigotry is the basis for one's assumptions, logic and sound reasoning never seem to enter into the picture.
He finishes his editorial by saying, "Keeping the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman does not prevent same-sex couples from professing their love to one another and making a lifelong commitment. Surely, there are other, better ways for society to honor that love."
If that doesn't smack of "Separate but Equal", I don't know what does. We abolished segregation in this country so bigots could no longer claim such nonsense. Gone are the days when Americans of African descent were denied the same access as other Americans. Gone are the times when bigots could claim that they weren't being bigoted because they have acknowledged our equality even though they won't allow the same access and rights to everyone. Don't swim in their pools or drink from their fountains or marry their sons or daughters.
So what does Mishcke mean by that? Could he be referring to civil unions? I'm not sure, because he doesn't really say. If that is what he means, then his arguments bear no weight whatsoever. In that scenario, same sex couples could be legally joined. It would just be called something else thereby ensuring that they remain second-class citizens at least in name. Once you start calling people's unions by different names, then you inevitably infer that the unions are somehow different and, consequently, not as worthy of the same distinction. "Separate but Equal" anyone?
Let's also be clear that voting "no" to this amendment does nothing to redefine the institution of marriage. It simply keeps discrimination based on one's sexual preference from being institutionalized by being written into our constitution. Allowing such a thing to happen by voting "yes" would be unprecedented in the history of Minnesota, and it is beneath us. I implore all Minnesotans to let their consciences be their guides and vote "no" to this amendment. Please do not let the bigots and the fear mongers sway you into believing that a "yes" vote is more than what it actually is. It is a means to divide us. It is a means to deprive your fellow citizens of their civil rights. No matter how you couch it, it is hateful, and it is wrong.