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 Fellow Minnesotans

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: May 14, 2013 - 11:35 PM
Dear Fellow Minnesotans:
 
There have been times, in the past 20 years or so, when I’ve wondered what had become of the Minnesota I knew and loved. Decisions were being made and policies were being implemented that seemed to go against everything that I thought made my home state great.
 
The Minnesota that I was born, raised and educated in was a state that always put the common good first. It seemed we could usually find common ground on the critical issues like education, the environment, health care and human rights. We had DFLers and Independent Republicans and everything in between, but no matter the party affiliation, the best interests of the state always seemed to triumph.
 
Then things started to change.
 
Budgets were cut, social services reduced and the government was shut down. Republicans were in power. Democrats were in power. Even an Independent was in power. And nothing seemed to get done. The fair and innovative state that I loved, and I thought I knew, seemed to be fading.
 
This decades long shift culminated in two initiatives that were introduced last year to change the state constitution: one would require voters to present a photo I.D. to vote and the other would define marriage as between one man and one woman. This was not the Minnesota I knew. But very quickly the Minnesota of my memory began to reclaim itself.
 
Individuals, faith communities, corporations, nonprofits and coalitions began to mobilize against both initiatives. By Election Day, what had once seemed impossible came to be. The good people of Minnesota rejected both constitutional amendments. I have never been more proud of Minnesota. That is, until today.
 
Building from the energy that the constitutional victory inspired last fall, Minnesotans seized the opportunity to become the 12th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage. This is the Minnesota I know and love.
 

It is a state that refuses to constitutionalize hate. It is a state that is built on a foundation of equality. It is a state that welcomes diversity. Minnesota is a state that we can all be proud of. 

Dear Coward:

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: April 30, 2013 - 6:38 PM
Dear Coward:
 
Aren’t you tired of living your life as an anonymous hate monger?
 
When you photocopy dated articles from uncredited publications – like the ones you sent me recently that suggested that “beheadings (are) acceptable in some contexts” such as homosexuality – doesn’t the smallest part of you want to take credit for sending this to me?
 
Clearly, you put a great deal of time into collecting and disseminating all kinds of anti-gay propaganda (though perhaps you could find something a bit more current than the clipping you forwarded about the party that Al and Tipper Gore held in their home for “150 homos last year”). But if you are going to go to all of this effort, wouldn’t you want the world to know that it is you behind this?
 
When you address the envelope, filled with anti-gay cartoons and lies about gay people and pedophilia, to me at my office (I guess you haven’t been able to track down my new home address yet), do you wonder what it must feel like to actually take responsibility for what you put out in the world?
 
What are you thinking when you affix the Ronald Reagan stamp to the letter? (Nice touch, by the way.) Are you thinking that the former president would be proud of you for secretly spreading your special kind of hatred? Or do you fear that the late president would have no time for someone like you who lives in the shadows, too cowardly to put your name or your face to your opinions.
 

What, I wonder, is it about gay people that you find so disgusting? Could it be that we demonstrate more strength and courage in living our lives than you could ever imagine when you are anonymously sending your hate mail? 

An Open Letter to Diane Feinstein and Gabrielle Giffords

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Violence, Politics Updated: April 24, 2013 - 8:46 AM
Dear Diane Feinstein and Gabrielle Giffords:
 
The U.S. Senate’s shameful vote on gun legislation last week must be especially disappointing and painful for the two of you.
 
Senator Feinstein, you tried to find a pulse for San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk by putting your finger in a bullet hole in his body after he was shot in City Hall. Both Supervisor Milk and Mayor George Moscone would die at the hand of an assassin that day in 1978.
 
Representative Giffords, your experience with guns is even more recent and more horrific. It was only two years ago when a gunman shot you, along with 18 other people at a constituent gathering. Six people died that day.
 
Your personal experiences have made you two of the most passionate advocates for reasonable gun legislation in the country. The majority of Americans agree with you when it comes to common sense expansion of background checks for gun buyers and banning assault weapons. But that wasn’t enough for a few Democratic Senators and the majority of Republican Senators who voted against reason and popular opinion last week.
 
Your experiences in San Francisco, California and Tucson, Arizona weren’t enough.
 
The mass killings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and at a school in Newtown, Connecticut also weren’t enough.
 
What, then, is it going to take to get our elected officials to stand up to the gun lobby in this country?
 

Surely, not every politician has to be a witness, or a victim, of a horrendous shooting to find the courage to vote against the National Rifle Association.

An Open Letter to Homophobes (The Few of You Who Remain)

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Society, Politics Updated: April 14, 2013 - 2:03 PM
Dear Homophobes:
 
Your heads must be spinning.
 
In just the past year, Vice-President Biden came out in favor of same-sex marriage followed by President Obama shortly thereafter.
 
In the November election, every same sex marriage ballet initiative in the U.S. resulted in victory for gay rights.
 
Suddenly, Republicans are tripping over themselves to get on the LGBT bandwagon – and not just those Republicans whose children are gay. (By the way, LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, in case you aren’t familiar with the term.)
 
The Supreme Court is now mulling over two cases; same sex marriage in California and the Defense of Marriage Act.
 
Uruguay – Uruguay for goodness sakes – legalized gay marriage, and France is poised to do the same thing.
 
The Minnesota legislature could become the second Midwestern state, after Iowa, to legalize gay marriage and Governor Dayton stands ready to sign such legislation.
 
And now we learn that at least one member of the four professional sports leagues – a gay, male basketball, football, baseball or hockey player is contemplating coming out, and the National Hockey League and the National Football League are determining how to support gay players.
 
It all must make you long for the days of calling for a boycott of anything that Ellen DeGeneres endorsed. Of course, those boycotts weren’t very effective now, were they?
 
It’s time, dear homophobes, to move on. I’m sure there is yet another group of people that you could put your energies towards discriminating against. Or perhaps you could try something new.
 
Perhaps you could try tolerance, acceptance and love. 

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: April 8, 2013 - 8:29 AM
Dear Mrs. Clinton:
 
My mother was born in 1920, the year that women received the right to vote in the United States. Today, she lives in a nursing home in rural Minnesota.
 
“I have my hair and my teeth and I have my marbles,” my mom says to anyone who will listen. She has lived through the Great Depression and a World War and has lived long enough to see an African American man occupy the Oval Office. She hasn’t yet seen a woman become President of the United States. You can change that, Mrs. Clinton.
 
Your friends say that you are perfectly content, after being First Lady, U.S. Senator, presidential candidate and Secretary of State, to have time to clean out your closets. Even if that is true, which I find hard to believe, now that you have had a few months of being a private citizen, I suspect that the future is beginning to crystalize for you.
 
If you live for 30 more years, Mrs. Clinton, you will be approximately as old as my mother is now. Like her, you will probably still have your hair and your teeth and your marbles. Do you really see yourself just writing a few books, giving a few speeches and cleaning out closets for the next three decades? Can you really imagine attending the inauguration of Joe Biden?
 
After all of your time in public life I would like to say that you have earned the right to step off the international stage, but I don’t believe that is true; at least not yet. For a very select few leaders, the expectations of the majority trump what may be individual desires.
 
After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela might have craved a private life, but that would have to wait. At the age of 76, Mandela was elected president of South Africa and served for five years. If he could do it, Mrs. Clinton, so can you. People are counting on you.
 
There are girls and women (and a whole lot of men) all over the world who are looking at you to see what you will do next. And there is a 92-year-old woman on the prairies of Minnesota who has every intention of voting for you and living to see you take the oath of office; and not just once, but twice. You would make history in 2016, but it’s 2020 that my mother really has her eyes on.
 

My mother turns 100 that year and 2020 also marks a century of women having the right to vote in the United States. How appropriate that a woman should be president at that milestone. You best plan a really big victory party in 2020, Mrs. Clinton, because there will be a whole lot of centenarian women, who have their marbles, who will be making their way to D.C. to celebrate. 

An Open Letter to Edie Windsor

Posted by: Kevin Winge under Politics Updated: April 1, 2013 - 10:44 PM
Dear Ms. Windsor:
 
Fifty years ago you walked into a restaurant in New York City that, on Friday nights, was known to cater to women who wanted to meet other women. You would meet Thea Spyer, the woman who would eventually become your wife, that night. Five decades later, the two of you have walked into history with the potentially landmark case, United States v. Windsor, that you have brought to the Supreme Court.
 
Since 1996, and the passage of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the U.S. has legally defined marriage as the “union between one man and one woman.” In the eyes of our federal government, your 44-year relationship with Ms. Spyer, which included a 40-year engagement and a wedding, in 2007 in Canada, was not as legitimate as heterosexual marriages. This despite the fact that you both worked, paid taxes, contributed to the community and you cared for your spouse throughout her long struggle with multiple sclerosis until her death in 2009. Eventually, New York State would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries where such unions were legal, but because of DOMA, the federal government did not.
 
When Thea died, you were left to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes that you would not have had to do if, as you have said in the past, “Thea was Theo.” You had had enough, and you brought your case to the Supreme Court. Now the case has been heard and we will wait until this summer to learn if the highest court in the land will end this discriminatory law that has harmed so many Americans.
 
Ms. Windsor, you have said that DOMA is “…a terrible injustice, and I don’t expect that from my country.” And that’s an important point that is too often left out of this discussion. This is our country, too, and it is long past time that all of the rights and benefits afforded heterosexual, married couples are extended to same-sex, married couples.
 
A few years after you and Ms. Spyer met, a new musical, Cabaret, opened on Broadway. I wonder if the two of you went to see the production. If so, you would have heard the song, “Married,” that includes the lyric:
 
“How the world can change,
 
It can change like that.
 
Due to one little word: Married.”
 
Our worlds change all of the time.
 
We go to a restaurant and we meet the person we will spend the rest of our lives with. And, a few courageous people like you share your story with the world, take your case before the Supreme Court and, hopefully, help to change the definition of one little word, “marriage.” 

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