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For Michele Bachmann

August 31, 2011 - 1:02 pm

Congresswoman Michele “I’m really from Iowa” Bachmann has spent some time lately wondering whether same-sex couples with children can be considered family.  Apparently they cannot, in her world.  Mrs. Bachmann has hardly been a friend of the LGBT community in the past.  But since she wants to become President, there are some things she should know about the people she proposes to lead:

  • Approximately two-thirds of Americans do see same-sex couples with children as families, according to 2010 research from Indiana University.
  • Based on 2010 U.S. Census data, there are more than 901,000 same-sex couples in the U.S., 25% of whom are raising children.
  • Same-sex couples with children live in large cities, suburbs and small towns all across the country.  The fact that there are 13,360 families with same-sex parents in New York may not seem surprising.  But the Census also reports:  6,290 families with same-sex parents in North Carolina; 2,585 in Oklahoma; 4,550 in Arizona and 2,372 right here in Minnesota, the state she represents.
  • And here’s one for Mrs. Bachmann to chew on: support for same-sex marriage is growing in Iowa – even among Republicans.

If children will teach you anything, it is that things change.  Not that long ago, gay men and lesbians assumed that coming out meant that they would never become parents.  Now, young gays and lesbians assume that they can.  Not that long ago, same-sex marriage seemed improbable at best.  Now, it is legal in six states and Washington, DC.  What’s more, 53% of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage – with support reaching 70% among young adults.  Clearly, there are still fiercely divided opinions about same-sex marriage and parenting, but public attitudes are shifting and younger generations are driving the change.

“So,” I say to my daughter, “some people think we’re not a family because we don’t have a mom and a dad.”

“That’s stupid,” she says.

“What is it about us that makes you know we’re a family?” I ask.

She shrugs and looks at me like I’m a bit dim.  “It makes me feel good.  I feel cozy and safe.  I don’t know.  We just are.”

Marriage Equality Gets the Seven-Year Itch

May 17, 2011 - 4:11 pm

Originally posted by Beacon Broadside, including thoughts from other authors on what has changed, or hasn’t, since the Massachusetts decision:

Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage seven years ago and what has changed? Well, let me point out that the marriage rate nationwide has declined – a-ha! –  perhaps same-sex marriage does undermine heterosexual marriage after all.  But the divorce rate nationwide has also declined – so maybe same-sex marriage actually strengthens heterosexual unions.  Or, here’s a thought, maybe it does neither.

Meanwhile, here in the heartland, we’re having none of it.  Six years and 49 weeks after Massachusetts’ action, some Minnesota legislators introduced a bill to define marriage as between one man and one woman in the state Constitution. The bill has been moving quickly through legislative committees and, despite the fact that Minnesota already denies marriage to same-sex couples, it will likely go to the popular vote in the 2012 election.  The bill’s advocates are positioning it in the usual ways, of course:  giving “the people” the chance for a “dialogue”; protecting children; upholding the will of God.  What is clear is that the “dialogue,” when it happens, is likely to play out heavily in the media, to cost millions of dollars, to pit different communities against each other, and to take up a whole lot of time and energy that could be put into other things like – oh, I don’t know – solving the budget deficit, planting gardens, playing with our kids.

Meanwhile, the real dialogue continues, mostly quietly, in communities across our state and the nation.  Since Massachusetts (and Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa and Washington, DC) legalized same-sex marriage, more gay and lesbian couples across the nation have become willing to be honest about who they are.  In Massachusetts – but also in places like Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky –same-sex couples are increasingly admitting that they are, in fact, not just roommates.

Maybe this is what the supporters of the Minnesota amendment fear most:  that people across the country will increasingly discover that gay men and lesbians really are pretty much like everyone else.  And there’s a reason for their fear.  Three national polls have now shown that more than half of Americans think that gay men and lesbians should have equal marriage rights.  This shift is not occurring only among the young and the liberal, but across religious and demographic groups (though, admittedly, more slowly in some places than others).  The primary driver is familiarity.  As more people have realized that they are related to, live near, work and volunteer with gay men and lesbians, they have also realized that gay men and lesbians are really just people who deserve to be treated fairly.

That, more than anything, is what has changed since the decision in Massachusetts.