A tale of two Marriage Equality Days

Today is the first day same-sex couples can legally marry in the state of Minnesota. For me, this is a happy day, particularly as I think of friends finally able to enjoy the legal benefits of long term committed relationships with the people they love. I spoke out against the anti-equality amendment last fall, and cheered as lawmakers and Gov. Dayton extended marriage rights to all. The governor proclaimed today “Marriage Equality Day.”

Further, as I woke up this morning to find that my marriage to my wife Christina (performed Aug. 4, 2000, by a Methodist minister) was entirely intact, despite our argument last night about whether or not hot dogs were a snack. Love marches on.

That’s nice and all, but we don’t need another post about all that. The attitudes that have allowed marriage equality to take hold, which is to say the growing cultural acceptance of people who are born homosexual, coalesced recently. There remain serious generational, religious, political and regional rough spots, evidenced in this NPR story about Minnesota’s new law.

Further, anecdotal reports indicate that Range and rural DFL lawmakers are getting an earful about the issue at county fairs, though it remains to be seen whether that’s from former supporters or people who didn’t vote for them in the first place. Fact is, the issue is a flash point for deeply unpleasant arguments in which both sides are united by the perceived wrongness of the other.

This is illustrated quite well in a recent controversy in the city of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

The longtime music director of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, Maria Annoni, retired abruptly last month, finally fed up with a sudden streak of hostility within the church community. The reason for the hostility? Annoni believes that it is because she is gay, and has been in a committed relationship for many years. She watched as the congregation became politicized against homosexuality last fall, something that changed the tone of the Sunday services and brought about cold shoulders toward her and her partner.

Nathan Bergstedt wrote the full story in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, which you should read for background.

Wednesday’s Herald-Review brought the letters to the editor and a very rare editorial. (The paper almost exclusively runs letters, guest commentaries and personal columns). Two letters expressed support for Annoni and her partner, who, bear in mind, are 20-plus-year members of the community.

The editorial acknowledges that several readers cancelled their subscription after the story telling Annoni’s side of the story (the church refused comment), ran on Sunday. And the paper didn’t back down:

How can we build a new world, strengthen love and increase understanding among humankind, when we refuse to read about and learn from injustice in our own community. …. We do our best to cover the diversity of our growing community. If we were to only publish your bridge scores and birth announcements, we wouldn’t give you much to talk about at the barber shop.”

One letter, however, seemed to endorse the hostile treatment of the couple. The writer said she had hoped the couple were sisters or friends, but were dismayed to learn they were gay. She thinks the priest not only “did the right thing,” but should have been more severe.

I understand there is a more compassionate way to articulate the position that marriage should be reserved for “one man, one woman.” But words like these are personal, powerful, and painful. They explain the very need that voters have recognized to treat people with respect, regardless of how their affectional orientation develops as they are born.

I know not everyone believes that people are born gay. But not everyone believes in the same religion, either. The beauty of America, reflected perfectly in the melting pot of northern Minnesota, is that we make laws fair for everyone, and let them argue religion however they like.

That’s what I believe. But not everyone in northern Minnesota believes that. The political and cultural storm has not passed here.

Congratulations to my friends getting married in coming days, and to my friends who might one day marry. Embracing love over judgement, other over self, ensures the passage of all storms.


  1. Aaron,

    So in your tolerant world is a Christian photographer obliged to participate in a wedding that they realize is a hellish farce? Or do they get freedom of conscience as well?

  2. How is a photographer (Christian or otherwise) obliged to take part in anything?

    Aside from not actually taking part, but only documenting an event, they are hired separately from any other aspect of weddings and if they don’t want the gig, they don’t have to take it. I’m sure there are many fine photographers willing to step into the void left by these devout christians. I bet that a lot of these same christians would have no problem taking the money from some straight couple of a different denomination, who must as surely be damned as the gay couples. Right? That’s how it works, you believe in a different sky wizard, you go to hell?

    Nice straw man, there, Mr. Gray.

  3. It would be oh so wonderful if those living in the north cared as much about what we are doing to the world around us as what folks do in their bedrooms. They want guns and cigarettes , toxic mines and dead wolves but heaven help us if two women want to get married…that shakes up the natural world.

  4. @David – In my life I’ve been obliged (through the doctrine of politeness) to attend many weddings that were hellish farces. They just happened to be “traditional.”

    This wedding photographer argument was a big issue during the legislative debate. I honestly can’t imagine why a couple would want to hire a photographer who expressed moral protestation of their very couplehood. I understand that anti-discrimination law would apply here, but practically speaking I don’t think that photographers will be forced to photograph things they don’t want to. Either the couple would want a more enthusiastic photographer or the photographer could position their business in a different part of the market, or they’d just accept that not everyone shares their beliefs. A devoutly Christian restauranteur probably wouldn’t require the acceptance of the divinity of Christ as a precondition for flapjacks and eggs.

    Case in point, what if it’s not a wedding but an extended family portrait. You’ve got grandma and grandpa, their five kids and their five spouses and grandkids. Let’s say there’s a same-sex couple in that mix. Are you saying that a professional photographer couldn’t just take that photo? I know several photographers. They take pictures of a lot of things that make them wonder, and they go on with their days.

    And @Unknown, I agree with the sentiment of staying out of people’s bedrooms, but don’t you be talkin’ smack about the people of the north. We come in all varieties.

  5. What I find horrifying, is not gay marriage, although with the legalization of gay marriage, it has opened the door for the true SICK-O’s to start this; by using the same tactic’s the gay marriage proponents used.
    Now, that’s some really messed up thinking, backed some D-Bags in our government!
    So, if you were all for gay marriage, will you also be for the SICK-O’s rights to have their way with children!!??!!!!!
    Be careful what you wish for……. The worst of the the worst will crawl out from their deep dark hiding spots and want the same!!!
    Peace, Joe

  6. I had to laugh about you “doctrine of politeness” causing to to attend several weddings. We’ve actually refrained from attending one due to what we’ve perceived as the couple using the church (building) as a prop for their photos. And didn’t attend a few for the “why the hell were we invited to that wedding?” reason. Another I attended at my own church because it looked as though my offspring might also be marrying into that family. But later I heard tales of the bride mocking the pastor’s message. And calculations of X guests times ___ value of wedding gifts= ??? Did they make out ok??? So, yeah, some traditional weddings might have underlying values that give us pause.

  7. Aaron,

    We already have an example of a Christian photographer in New Mexico who was pursued because she refused to work a homosexual wedding. It isn’t an abstract question. The goal of the activists is no tolerance for orthodox Christians.


  8. Nice straw man, there, Mr. Gray.

    See above fella…

  9. In several states in this country people can get fired without cause just for being gay. That’s not abstract either. Nor are sodomy laws which are enforced only in the cases of gay couples and never in the cases of heterosexual couples. Christians have a vast amount of case law supporting the practice of their religion. People who are gay have relatively little law in their favor, and today they got just a little bit more protection of their legal status.

    One photographer “forced” to do something he/she didn’t want to do over moral objection is a case that deserves its day in court and due process, but that is no reason to deny legal marriage protection for an entire minority class of people. Again, I recognize your point, but practically speaking there is no comparison. Christians (and, for that matter Muslims, Jews, Hindus, vegetarians and union members) must daily encounter things that run contrary to their beliefs, and yet somehow manage to struggle onward. I suspect they will. I suspect you will, too.

  10. Aaron,

    So is it acceptable to coerce that photographer?

  11. I honestly don’t know. I don’t know the case well enough to argue about it on the internet. “Coerce” is a bad word though. I do know that. In the abstract this comes down to equal rights law. People in the service industries can’t discriminate. Nevertheless, I still don’t know anyone who would want to hire someone who was uncomfortable with performing a particular service for them. It would be an unusual case, for sure.

  12. Aaron,

    Thanks. I’m afraid you are a good example about how this has nothing to do with tolerance. While free practice of religion is explicitly protected in the constitution and sodomy is not you ultimately find it acceptable that people can be required to participate in acts which their religion defines as sinful. That is neither tolerant nor genuinely constitutionally acceptable. But it is beginning to pull down the smiling mask worn by the homosexual movement and not everyone can live with what they’ll see.

  13. And to clarify I suppose orthodox Christians are not absolutely forced to do such things. They can withdraw from the world of commerce. But I think the guaranteed right of free exercise pretty much precludes the idea that “you’re free to practice your religion as long as you don’t engage in commerce.”

  14. The real reason most of those who object to gay marriage is because they view sex between men as “icky”. Never mind that heterosexuals also engage in positions that are outside the realm of “missionary”. All of the hullabaloo about commerce, traditional marriage, ad nauseum, is just a smokescreen.
    If it were up to the “Christians”, African-Americans would still not be legally able to marry whites…and that’s the real truth.

  15. The real reason

    An equivalent posting in opposition would assert that you only favor homosexual pseudo-marriage because it is the next step in moving towards a society that will permit you to have (fill in the blank with an indefensible practice).

    Of course you may find it necessary to make such absurd assumptions so that you can sleep at night. That would be good as a capacity for shame is an essential part of a civilized man or woman.

  16. I fully intend to legally sleep with a chicken before my life is over. These things need to be taken step by step.

  17. The fundamental tenet for marriage is to raise children. Not all, but the majority of marriages result in having children and raising them. Human babies are incapable of taking care of themselves without parents, they’ll die. In this regard, the male and female each play a critical inherent role. When either is missing, the child is handicapped. Doesn’t say they can’t survive (look at black American’s, 72% are raised without a male present), but their chance of living a long, fruitful life and staying out of jail is slim. Compare their quality of life of with children raised where a male and female are present….black, white or Zimmermanian….and there’s no comparison.

    Now imagine raising children in an environment of two females or two males, it also doesn’t compare.

    There’ll always be exceptions but the human race won’t survive on exceptions. And exceptions, by definition, are not normal…regardless of Minnesota’s efforts to redefine words…and the truth.

    p.s. Jay Carney – Sheep complain less than chickens

  18. Well, I said my piece. Alternative views have been aired. Good talk, everyone. Real nice. Love will conquer. Peace to you all.

  19. Ever notice how when facts & hard data enter a discussion it’s time to “move on”, nough said, next ideological topic?

    That’s ok though, kinda like these Brit like, cigar smoking, library room, after dinner, philosophical, men only discussions

  20. Nice segue into taking a shot at black Americans, Ranger. The ugliness of too many conservative minds just never stops.
    Traditional marriage was based on women as property and a commodity traded among men. What better way to keep them in place than keeping them barefoot and pregnant. The advent of the pill must have given you severe heart palpitations.
    Men only discussions, indeed.

  21. You simply can’t create a caricature of the almost infinite ignorance, vulgarity and brutish nature of the thought of a significant portion of the left.

  22. Well, David, wordy does not equate intelligence. However, it is a great impression of trying to baffle them with bulls**t.

  23. Only facts Jackie. How you elect to interrupt them is up to you, but calling the messenger ugly? Not fair, cheap shot, you hardly know me. And actually, it’s 73%, not 72.

    Also, odds are pretty good I have more black friends than you. The majority of which are just as disappointed as me with that figure.

  24. Ah,yes, the old “my best friend is black “. You really are so predictable.

  25. Jackie, why don’t you want to deal with the tragedy and the facts that Ranger pointed out? Is it because blacks are unimportant to you?

  26. Jackie’s lack of constructive commentary & cynical tone has dual roots David.

    You’ve pointed out one, no interest in identifying the cause of social problems…and offering solutions.

    The cynicism is simply an intellectual cripple’s substitute for intelligence. When facing issues beyond their reasoning capability they lash out, and most often change the subject.

  27. The subject was gay marriage until Ranger threw in the race issue, but you both know that.
    Of course,I am concerned about the pregnancy rate in the black community(funny how all those concerns about having children willy -nilly doesn’t extend to minorities).
    The lack of education and opportunity are the true roots of the disintegration of black families. The drug epidemic has sent a disproportionate number of black men to prison and crushed job opportunities for those who have served their time. Women do not want to marry men who can’t provide. Women choose to have children in untenable situations for someone to love who will love them back. For them this is an attainable reality without marriage. A short -term reality obviously, but perpetuates the cycle that increases generational poverty.
    Until structural and systemic racism disappears, the problems will remain.
    The gutting of women’s reproductive rights, defunding of Planned Parenthood, which is often the only way for low income women to obtain contraceptives, and slashing of social safety nets is guaranteed to increase the plight of those who don’t have it so good.
    There is nothing that rankles me more than smug white men who have no concept of how much their simply being white gives them a great advantage in the game of life.
    Ranger and Mr.Gray seem to have become the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of this blog. My deepest sympathies, Aaron.

  28. The lack of education and opportunity are the true roots of the disintegration of black families.

    You must be very young. When Jim Crow was in place and there was genuine large scale oppression of blacks the black family was in much better shape than it is now.

    There is nothing that rankles me more than smug white men who have no concept of how much their simply being white gives them a great advantage in the game of life.

    That is reassuring. I’ve already been out to mow the lawn and done assorted other chores but it is always good to know I’ve accomplished something else.

  29. Well,if you consider 79 young….

  30. Well,if you consider 79 young….

    Well then forgetful or unaware.

    The point stands.

  31. The black family may have appeared to have been more intact, but prejudice has always been there…..along with the ever-widening gap between low income, middle class and the wealthy. The minorities have always been impacted much more severely during times of economic flux.
    Education is a huge factor, with public schools being given short shrift in favor of whatever game is the latest scheme to continue thinly -disguised segegration……and higher education is now becoming the impossible dream for those living on the margins. The fabric can only be stretched so far before it tears apart
    I am nauseated by the blatant racism that has erupted since the election of Barack Obama. It has always been there, but having a black president seems to have given license to every knuckle -dragger out there. What a country..

  32. The black family may have appeared to have been more intact

    Well in those ways subject to human observation the family was stronger when prejudice was stronger and black income was further behind the median income.

    I am nauseated by the blatant racism that has erupted since the election of Barack Obama.

    I am as well but it is a free country and I don’t want to gag Charles Rangel and Al Sharpton.

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