Kevin Winge

Kevin Winge is a native of Minnesota. He lives in San Francisco, California where he is is the executive director of Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious meals to people living with disease. Read more about Kevin Winge.

An Open Letter to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Society Updated: September 9, 2013 - 9:04 AM

 

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak officiates at our wedding at City Hall.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak officiates at our wedding at City Hall.

 
Dear Mayor Rybak:
 
You have been clear that your three-state tour promoting marriage equality in Minnesota is driven by your desire to increase tourism dollars in Minneapolis. Since Illinois, Colorado and Wisconsin have yet to approve same-sex marriage, there is an opportunity to woo gay and lesbian couples from those states to exchange vows in the “City of Lakes,” and leave millions of dollars with the hospitality industries before returning to their home states. It makes good economic sense, and it accomplishes so much more than simply adding revenue to the local coffers.
 
In a subtle and effective way, your “Marry Me in Minneapolis” campaign continues the nationwide movement for marriage equality. In Chicago, you reminded leaders and voters that Illinois has yet to do the right thing and legalize same-sex marriage. In Madison, Milwaukee and cities in Colorado, your economic campaign will have the added value of keeping the issue on the front burner of peoples’ consciousness. And there is another added value to your innovative campaign.
 
Some gay and lesbian people from these three states will come to Minneapolis to marry and they will leave money behind with caterers, hotels and florists. A few of them will also realize that right now, Minneapolis is a more welcoming city to live and work in. States that don’t wake up to this fact will, inevitably, see a drain of talent as gays and lesbians relocate to communities – like Minneapolis – where they truly are equal citizens.
 
While your focus with this tour is on generating revenue for Minneapolis, I also personally know your commitment to the issue. When my partner and I became one of the 1,640 couples who applied for a marriage license in Minnesota, we knew who we wanted to perform the ceremony. You graciously agreed to open your office and marry us on August 30th.
 
Your motivation for the “Marry Me in Minneapolis” campaign may be economic, but you truly understand the significance of what Minnesota has done. As you said at the start of our wedding, “We are gathered here to make history in the name of love.”
 
You just can’t put a price tag on that.

An Open Letter to Opponents of the Supreme Court’s Decision on DOMA

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: June 27, 2013 - 9:10 AM
Dear Opponents of the Supreme Court’s Decision on DOMA:
 
Yesterday the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), meaning legally married gay couples will have the same federal rights as married straight couples.
 
And today, the sun rose and we woke up, brushed our teeth, had a cup of coffee and got on with our day. Just like we did the day before the DOMA decision. Just like we will do every day after the DOMA decision.
 
The sky didn’t fall. Heterosexual marriages were not diminished.
 
While I am one of the Americans who is celebrating the Supreme Court decision, I know – all to well – what it is like to be on the losing side of judicial decisions, as well as the losing side of legislation and elections. At times it has stung. At times it has hurt. And at times it has made me angry. But each time I’ve been on the losing side of an issue, I’ve moved on, because that is what we do in a democracy when the voters, the legislators or the courts have had their say.
 
As opponents of same-sex marriage, it might be too soon for you to move on. You might need more time to process the seemingly fast pace of change for LGBT people. Maybe, over time, when you realize that the world didn’t stop with the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA, and you see the joy that this decision has brought to millions of Americans, your opposition can evolve into acceptance and maybe even support.
 
After all, when you strip away the legal language around the Supreme Court decision, you realize that the case was really all about love. Love is a powerful force. It nearly always triumphs. It triumphed again this week. 

An Open Letter to Alan Chambers of Exodus International

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: June 21, 2013 - 9:57 AM

Dear Mr. Chambers and Exodus International:

We all know people who simply can’t apologize. We know others who hem and haw and struggle with the words before finally blurting out a lame “I’m sorry” that can feel less than heartfelt.

There is an art to apologizing.

An apology should acknowledge the wrong that has been done. It should include an assurance that whatever occurred will not happen again. And, perhaps most importantly, an apology should be authentic.

To be honest, I haven’t thought about Exodus International in years. The mission of your Christian ministry, to convert gay people to heterosexuality through prayer and counseling, has long ago been discredited. The reparative therapy that your ministry practiced would be a laughingstock, had it not damaged the lives of so many people.

But now, as President of Exodus International, Mr. Chambers, you have done something profoundly right. You have personally apologized, and your organization has apologized, for “years of undue suffering” that your work inflicted on gays and lesbians, their families and our community. And you have announced that Exodus International will cease to be.

Your apologies acknowledge the pain that your efforts have caused. Your willingness to close Exodus International, and form a new ministry that will build bridges with the gay community, is an action that needed to happen. Mostly, though, it is the tone of your apologies that I appreciate. They seem heartfelt and authentic.

Mr. Chambers, you and the Board of Directors of Exodus International, have helped to close a sad chapter in the history of the gay rights movement. Although new “ex-gay ministries” are already being formed, the shutting down of Exodus International marks the next step in recognizing that homosexuality is not something that can be “cured.”

You are to be commended for you action, Mr. Chambers. While some people will not be able to accept your apologies, many others, including me, do so gratefully.

An Open Letter to Attendees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: June 10, 2013 - 9:09 PM
Dear Attendees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting:
 
As you gather in Houston this week for your annual meeting, a topic of discussion will be the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) recent decision to welcome openly gay boys into their ranks. Some Southern Baptist churches around the country, from Alabama to Idaho, have already announced decisions to break with the Boy Scouts. No doubt, a resolution will be put forward during your meeting recommending that Southern Baptist congregations end their relationships with the BSA.
 
More than 70% of Scout chapters have charters with faith-based organizations. (Baptist churches sponsor over 100,000 Boy Scouts through 4,000 chapters.) Yet not all religions share your disappointment with the BSA’s decision. The Mormon Church, for example, with more than four times the number of Scouts than Baptist congregations, has accepted the Boy Scouts’ ruling on gay membership.
 
Still, there is no changing the decision that will be coming out of your meeting. Richard Land, the head of your Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has said, “There’s a 100% chance that there will be a resolution about disaffiliation (from the Boy Scouts) at the convention and a 100% chance that 99% of people will vote for it.”
Those percentages don’t disturb me.
What disturbs me is what this decision will do to the thousands of gay boys growing up in Southern Baptist churches who will, yet again, feel diminished by your actions.
I don’t know what kind of a goodie bag you will receive when you check in for your conference in Houston. If I could, I would slip a copy of the popular Macklemore + Ryan Lewis song, “Same Love” into your bags. In the song, they rap:
“The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten”
 
Now, I know, even if I could get a CD of “Same Love” in every one of your swag bags, that attendees at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting probably would not listen to the song. But guess what? Your children are listening to it.
 
Some of you might find the preceding lyrics disturbing. But here’s the Macklemore lyric from “Same Love” that you should pay attention to:

“Progress, march on.” 

An Open Letter to Coca-Cola

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: June 2, 2013 - 2:03 PM
Dear Coca-Cola:
 
Give me a break. Do you really expect us to believe that the world’s most valuable brand suddenly, genuinely cares about obesity? Or could it be that the growing drumbeat of taxing sugary drinks, and efforts like those of Mayor Bloomberg to limit the size of soft drinks, has you and members of the American Beverage Association running scared.
 
In the United States, the main source of calories comes from sodas and other sweetened drinks. Not surprisingly, 26% of Americans are obese and 36% are overweight. Now you, Coca-Cola, want us to “come together” to do something about obesity.
 
So, what exactly are you doing in this global battle to fight obesity?
 
First, you are going to offer low- or no-calorie options for beverages in every market. That’s very big of you Coca-Cola. You will give consumers more options to purchase your product, including bottled water, in parts of the world where tap water is generally safe, and free, to drink. That’s a courageous step in reducing global obesity and its subsequent health issues.
 
Next, you are taking the bold move to feature the number of calories in each product – right there on the front of the can or bottle. If you truly cared about obesity, how about putting a different message on your packaging? What about something that actually might get consumers’ attention like: “This product can make you fat and may cause heart attacks, diabetes and osteoporosis.” How’s that for transparency, Coca-Cola?
 
The third action you are committing to do is supporting physical activity programs and getting three million people “to rediscover the joy of being active.” Admirable, but it’s estimated that four billion people drink Coke. Any thoughts of scaling up your commitment to exercise to, I don’t know, maybe at least reach 1% of your global consumers?
 
Finally, you have resolved to not directly advertise your products to children under the age of 12. What a carefully crafted resolution, Coca-Cola. You tell us you won’t “advertise” your products “directly” to kids under 12-years-old. Nice job of leaving the door open to continue to market sugary drinks to children “indirectly” through commercials they will still see on TV, billboards and, of course, at sporting events.
 
When carefully considered, your four actions to beat obesity comes down to just another marketing campaign intended to maintain your position as the world’s leading beverage company. The best thing you could do to reduce obesity, Coca-Cola, is to water down some of your products the way you have watered down this anti-obesity media campaign. 

An Open Letter to Rep. Michele Bachmann

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: May 29, 2013 - 9:20 AM
Dear Rep. Bachmann:
 
If I thought you were going to slip quietly into history, and move to someplace like Switzerland or Oregon, I could be gracious about your announcement to not seek a fifth term in Congress. I admire people in public service and respect politicians who are willing to enter the arena and fight for their worldview – even when our view of the world differs. And our positions on the issues of the day, Rep. Bachmann, could not differ more.
 
The news of your departure from Congress has me worried, however, of what you will do next. Will you become the spokesperson of a conservative think tank? (And in this instance I’m being generous in the use of the word “think.”) Is there a permanent chair waiting for you at Fox News? Or will there be another run for office in your future?
 
The words of Richard Nixon, following his defeat in the 1962 race for Governor of California, ring in my ears: “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore…” We all know how that turned out.
 

Sadly, there will probably always be a place for your kind of politics, Rep. Bachmann. I just hope that your departure from Congress will find you with a smaller soapbox, not a bigger one.  

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