Case: ‘Vote No’ on the marriage amendment

Annie Kopacek presents an opposing view in a letter to TommieMedia.

The Right Side of History

To the St. Thomas Community,

I write this letter to contribute to an on-going conversation about the reasons why I will vote no on the hurtful and discriminatory marriage amendment, which seeks to deny same-sex couples the right to marriage and all of its legal benefits.

There are a variety of reasons to vote no on the marriage amendment:

1) Legal unfairness: Marriage is a civil institution with many legal benefits, and to deny its equal application to citizens due to sexual orientation violates not only the Due Process and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but also the very spirit of equality and justice upon which this nation is built. Currently, there are 1,100 federal benefits and 515 Minnesota state benefits that are conferred upon married couples that committed same-sex couples do not receive. These benefits involve financial matters such as wills and inheritances, as well as more personal matters such as hospital visitation rights and end of life issues. While voting “no” on the Marriage Amendment will not grant those rights, it will leave open the possibility that a 1996 statute, which made same-sex marriage illegal in Minnesota, can be overturned.  Logo_Letters_1

2) Strengthens marriage and families: Marriage as a civil institution is about family, yet the state has always rightly included childless couples and those who adopted under that definition. Voting No leaves open the possibility that committed same-sex couples would be able to join in the same civil institution that many heterosexual couples do. Some proponents of the marriage amendment argue that marriage has been between one man and one woman for thousands of years, but marriage has developed through time, e.g., by allowing interracial and interfaith marriages. Supporters of the Marriage Amendment state that heterosexual marriage is a legally recognized institution for the protection of children. However, according to a 2005 study by the American Psychological Association, “Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.”

3) Sullies the Minnesota Constitution and American founding ideals: The Minnesota Constitution is a precious document, in which we find many of our rights as Minnesotans protected. Amendments such as these threaten the constitution. Marriage amendment supporters are calling for the Minnesota Constitution to be used not to frame rights and limit governmental prerogatives, but rather, to deny rights to a minority group for the first time in our state’s history. Our Founding Fathers feared the potential of allowing citizens to vote on the civil rights of others, calling it a “tyranny of the majority,”. James Madison, in Federalist 51, states, “It is of great importance…to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.” The marriage amendment, under the guise of “protecting family values”, represents the misuse of amending our Constitution to deny rights to a minority group, something antithetical to American ideals.

4) Infringes on barrier between church and state: The marriage amendment constitutes the weakening of the separation of church and state and the freedom of religion, in that marriage by the state, a secular and civil activity, is being denied equal access to all in accordance with the views of some religious groups. How the Catholic Church handles the sacrament of marriage is rightfully within the bishops’ purview, however, ending civil marriage discrimination is a matter of promoting equal protections under the law. A number of religious institutions recognize the validity of same sex marriage. This statute would preclude their ability to do so. The assertion that this is matter of natural law or the common good masks the reality that people of faith disagree on this topic. This should concern every person of faith.

To close, I want to emphasize how hurtful this amendment is to the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and how damaging it has been to our state’s political climate. The campaign for the marriage amendment communicates to a minority group that they are inferior, deserving less protection and fewer rights under the law. This marriage amendment epitomizes what our Founding Fathers feared – a majority seeking to limit the freedom of a minority group by altering the very constitution of our state.

When you vote on November 6, think about how your vote impacts real people – people who love, build families, and want to have their rights affirmed by their government. Be on the right side of history on November 6. – Vote No.


Chris Gelke, Junior

12 Replies to “Case: ‘Vote No’ on the marriage amendment”

  1. Chris, Thank you for your eloquent examination of the amendment and the historical context. I will vote no as the first step to end this particular form of discrimination against citizens of this country. For me, this is the next step on the continuum of the evolving definition. When I married my husband 30 years ago, there was great tension because I was Catholic and he was Missouri Synod Lutheran. His father would not attend the wedding and was only convinced by family and close friends to set aside his concerns and support us. He’s been a very loving and supportive father-in-law and is also very proud and supportive of his gay grandchild and partner. In the 1970’s interracial marriages were still prohibited in many states. It might and should be hard for college students to imagine those kinds of discrimination. At a certain point in the near future, we’ll all wonder what the fuss was about and why anyone thought it would be in our best interest to continue this form of discrimination against a group of citizens of this great country. I am proud to join you on the right side of history. Peace and love! Sincerely, Jennifer Volkman 

  2. Mr. Gelke: You are wrong on all 4 points. Legal rights of same sex couples can be obtained through various other means than marriage, and the advantage of an amendment is that marriage cannot be changed only through the vote of the people and not by some activist judge or a few legislators. 2. Marriage has not developed through time. It has been warped by disidents through time. From the beginning, it has always been between one man and one woman, and there are several studies that demonstrate that children are much better developed in a stable family with a mother and father, and there is no “right” to marriage written in the constitution, so no one is being deprived. 4. The laws of this country are based upon those written by and voted on the people, and are based upon the convictions of those who write and pass the laws whether you agree with them or not. It is unlawful to kill. Therefore, the minority of those who want to kill are deprived. 4. Read the Constitution regarding “seperation of Church and State.” You won’t find anything to support your position. And finally, there is no discrimination. No one can marry family members, multiples, or same sex partners. Everyone can marry someone of the opposite sex. All laws discriminate and are hurtful against someone.

  3. It’s ok Chris–Per #4 (the second one, as there is no argument #3), Mr. Houck looked only for the text, but didn’t take the time to read the establishment clause. In addition, I sure hope ’51 isn’t a UST alumni year; I’d be disappointed to see a fellow alumni comparing the gay and lesbian community in Minnesota to a “minorty of people that want to kill” and use that as an example of how “All laws discriminate and are hurtful against someone.” In addition, brilliant explanation of how nothing will change for religious institutions that wish to retain emphasis on marriage as a procreative function. That’s an argument both sides gloss over and you addressed it very well. In addition, it should offend everyone that the amendment is on the ballot SOLELY to motivate social conservatives who are lukewarm about Romney to go out and vote anyway. It’s offensive to use a Constitution for petty and tawdry politically convenient purposes. –A heterosexual, Catholic UST alum

  4. Mr. Houck: it is extremely hurtful that your rebuttal to point #4 that you are comparing murderers to homosexual couples.
    I feel it is important to ask you what we are protecting? Because perhaps there are studies that same-sex parents are “harmful to children,” but there are also studies that say single parents, divorced parents, alcoholic parents, working parents, etc. are all “harmful to children.” There are even studies that say stay-at-home-mothers are “harmful to children.” We do not have a constitutional amendment against them. The decision to have children and have a family is a personal one left to adults to decide on their own. The state does not screen parents to decide whether or not a couple will be good parents before issuing them a marriage license. This amendment does not save children from all bad parents. In fact, this amendment tells many adopted children that they have an illegal and inappropriate family.

  5. Mr. Houck, I’d like to ask you a question about your claim that “several studies demonstrate that children are much better developed in a stable family with a mother and father.” First of all, how do you define “better development?” In terms of health? Emotional development? I have heard constant arguments about children being “better developed” in heterosexual parents but no specifics on what this means. Secondly, where are you getting these study results? From my extensive research, the overwhelming majority of studies and tests (all from reliable sources) have pointed to the result that children are no less emotionally, physically, or cognitively disadvantaged within homosexual households than within heterosexual households. Please, read the following:

    According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: 

    “Current research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents do not differ from children with heterosexual parents in their emotional development or in their relationships with peers and adults. It is important for parents to understand that it is the the QUALITY of the parent/child relationship and not the parent’s sexual orientation that has an effect on a child’s development. Research has shown that in contrast to common beliefs,…

  6. lesbian, gay, or transgender parents:1. Are not more likely to be gay than children with heterosexual parents.2. Are not more likely to be sexually abused.3. Do not show differences in whether they think of themselves as male or female (gender identity).4. Do not show differences in their male and female behaviors (gender role behavior).” 

    According to the American Psychological Association, “the research has been remarkably consistent in showing that lesbian and gay parents are every bit as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted as children reared by heterosexual parents.”

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a 2002 review of the literature, the AAP also found no negative effects. “Compared with heterosexual fathers, gay fathers have been described to adhere to stricter disciplinary guidelines, to place greater emphasis on guidance and the development of cognitive skills, and to be more involved in their children’s activities.”

    I could go on, Mr. Houck, but I’ll stop there. If you’d like more evidence, feel free to ask. If you’d like links to these studies, I’ll be happy to provide them. 

    It is incredibly hurtful as the niece of two adoring lesbian Aunts with two…

  7. fully-rounded, wonderful children, to hear that people such as yourself discount the strength and validity of their family. Their eldest daughter, one of my cousins, is an incredibly intellectual, and immensely talented cellist, who has been playing with the Minnesota Orchestra and various conservatories since she was 10 years old. She is involved in not only music, but theater, artistry, and multiple athletics at the current best high school in MN (Southwest). Her younger brother is the starting center of his A-Team Soccer team, and is also enrolled in college math courses (he is an 8th grader, currently). How can you possibly say that my cousins are not as “developed” or could be “better developed” in different circumstances, namely, within the household of two heterosexual parents? From my life with this close-knit, loving, wonderful family, I don’t see how much more “developed” these children could be. 

    I have much more to say about this issue, including the other three points you believe to be false claims that Mr. Gelke has written about, but I thought I’d address this issue that continues to deeply hurt me, as the argument for the well-being of the family is repeatedly brought up when discussing the amendment. 

    As stated previously by the AACAP, it is the…

  8. QUALITY of the parenting, NOT the sexual orientation of the parents that leads to the child’s future development. 

  9. Mr. Houck,
    Thank you for your insight and point-by-point analysis of Mr. Gelke’s letter. I only raise one concern with your thoughtful response: Whereas Mr. Gelke cited a metastudy by the American Psychological Association, the governing body of psychiatric professionals in the USA, to back up his point, you stated that there are “several studies that demonstrate that children are much better developed pin a stable family with a mother and father.” I have searched for a widely accepted, unbiased study, but haven’t been able to find one. Please link me to a study that states that children are raised better in a heterosexual marriage.

  10. To preface this post I am a moderate with a Lutheran upbringing who tends to lean fiscally conservative but socially liberal. I do not feel this amendment is needed in any way (nor is the voter ID bill).  It is just another government intrusion into the daily lives of the people….wait isn’t it just the liberals who are supposed to do that?  I just find this amendment very hypocritical in that sense.  Furthermore I agree with the points made in the letter.  Churches have every right to NOT marry same sex couples, that is their decision.  I don’t even blame people with strong religious convictions to vote yes on it because that is their call, their own beliefs.  But the fact that this was passed to be on the ballot disgusts me.  I will be voting no as a sign that I will not stand for hypocrisy and discrimination in my state and my country.    

  11. Excellent article Chris, very informative! Although I wish the very best for you and your future I want to point out an aspect of the “vote yes” campaign that you may not have considered yet. I wish people would understand that a “Yes” vote is not an “anti-Gay” vote. I am a devout Catholic, and quite honestly I do truly believe that “marriage” should be between a man and a woman, but this does NOT mean that I don’t think gay couples should be able to have all the same legal protections as straight couples. I’m all for gays and lesbians being able to have their own ceremonies, start families, and be recognized by government as any other couple would, but I do not think that this should be deemed a “marriage” as the Bible explicitely states that a marriage is sacred vow between a man and woman. So please just know that people who may be sporting “vote Yes” shirts and signs may not necessarily be anti-gay, for many this may just be an argument over terminology of using the word “marriage” and how it’s definition might possibly be changed depending on this vote. (That is if one recognizes marriage as a vow rather than just a civil union, but again keep in mind that UST is a CATHOLIC University and Im really not too surprised to see so many people supoorting vote yes…

  12. Hi Sarah, I was taking a policy of not commenting on my own letter, but because you have a very specific concern that you addressed respectfully, I feel obliged to respond. Unfortunately, the way Minnesota laws are written, only “marriage” guarantees the 515 State and 1100 Federal Benefits that would comprise equality under the law. If the MN Legislature wants to change the wording of all the laws to grant all civil unions those rights, that would be fine. Any religion could call these civil unions what they want, including “marriage”, but because thats the way MN laws and statutes are worded, denying same-sex couples the right to marry permanently via a Constitutional amendment limits their ability to gain these rights, since the laws were written in such a way to give them to only people who are “married”. Because “marriage” in this State has a civil context, it can’t be denied equal application to all because of sexual orientation – but any Church that wishes to conduct religious marriages can do so to whomever they choose with whatever restrictions they choose. 

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