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Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

The bachelor farmer and the marriage vote

  • Article by: SARAH JANECEK
  • October 29, 2012 - 8:21 PM

This Republican will be voting "no" on the Minnesota marriage amendment.

Both sides of this debate contend that the amendment is about families.

It is.

It's about my family. Past and present.

The past? My late bachelor farmer uncle.

Most Minnesotans -- and many people across the nation -- know about Garrison Keillor's famous Norwegian bachelor farmers. They live and farm out there "on the edge of the prairie." They grow the grain that gets milled into the flour that becomes Powdermilk Biscuits. They hang out with each other at one end of the only bar in Lake Wobegon.

My late bachelor farmer uncle really did live on the edge of the prairie, on the farm where he was born, for almost all of his eight decades-plus of life. He grew grain -- although I'm pretty sure none of it became Powdermilk Biscuits. He did not, however, hang out in bars. I bet my late uncle bachelor farmer never touched a drop of alcohol. Well, maybe during the years he served our country in World War II.

My uncle never went to college. But he was one of the smartest men I've ever met. No one in our family could ever beat him at Scrabble. The man did complex math equations in his head. In seconds.

He was a lifelong subscriber to National Wildlife magazine. He was a human Wikipedia decades before there was an Internet Wikipedia. He gave generously of his time and money to his local church. He participated in local township government.

I'm quite confident my late uncle never voted for a Republican once in his entire life.

My late uncle bachelor farmer had a bachelor farmer pal, whom I'll call Bob. My uncle and Bob were the best of friends for more than 50 years. Every winter, when no work could be done on their farms, the two took long road trips and saw America. When they got too old to farm, they traveled more. When they got too old to travel and live alone on their farms, they acquired adjacent rooms at the nursing home in town. They died within months of each other at that home.

My late bachelor farmer uncle and his friend Bob were a beautiful gay love story.

Over the years, as everyone in our family grew to understand the true nature of the relationship, we were thrilled for my late uncle. In his lifetime, there was no possibility of "coming out" out there, on the edge of the prairie. My late uncle lived the best life he could under the societal norms of rural, small-town Minnesota in the 20th century.

When he died, our family took great comfort in the knowledge that he had Bob in his life for all those years. Maybe living alone in the farmhouse wasn't so lonely after all. Bully for both of them.

I'm voting "no" for my late uncle, and for all the bachelor farmers who may have been or are gay.

The present? I have a cousin -- make that two cousins -- who are lesbians. I am happy for them, because this is a different time. Unlike my uncle, they get to live their lives openly as who they are, and publicly acknowledge the partners they love. I have gay and lesbian friends who are like family. Some of them work harder at their marriages than most of the heterosexual couples I know.

I'm voting no for them.

My life has been and will continue to be greatly enriched by having family and friends who happen to be gay or lesbian.

And because of that, in the end, I'm voting no for me.

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Sarah Janecek lives in Minneapolis. To read more marriage amendment commentaries, go here.

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