To President Craft and the Concordia College Community,
I write this letter today as a recent graduate of Concordia, adjusting to the realities of reluctant adulthood. I see the pictures of the beginning of the year and I feel like I should be there-—leading a club through those first few days and imparting what wisdom I can to the new students. I deeply miss my former peers, both old and current. It is an odd sensation, but I also wouldn’t trade where I am for the world. I write this letter to ask that Concordia take a stand against the unnecessary and incredibly hurtful amendment that would limit the freedom to marry for all couples.
Today, I can say with great pride that I am a community organizer with Minnesotans United for All Families, a non-partisan group working to defeat the upcoming marriage amendment. It is not where I expected to be but it has been an empowering, invigorating and inspiring experience. The amendment in question would limit marriage to be between one man and one woman. For many people this is an incredibly important issue. It transcends party lines, it touches on many important values for people of all genders, races, religions, and it affects all Minnesotans.
The conversations about the amendment are important and need to happen. As an institution devoted to enhancing the critical thinking skills of its students, Concordia is the perfect place to have them. In my time with the campaign, I have been struck by the civility with which we are able to have conversations with people on both sides. What that says is passion can be productive, and civil discourse is possible—refreshing news to hear.
And the way we talk about this is important. I know I was anxious about having conversations. We feel unqualified to talk “politics,” or feel a shouting match will ensue. I say, “It’s not a political issue, it’s a personal issue.” This falls in the realm of civil rights, fairness and discrimination, but the reality here is that this is an amendment that hurts our friends, our family, our peers and so many other people that we don’t know and will never know. It hurts people who have been with their partner for 40 years; it hurts people who have lost friends to suicide; it hurts those kids who are having a tough time (to say the least) in their high schools, their hometowns, and in their families when they come out. We all know people affected personally by this.
These personal stories are powerful and change minds. I am a straight man who could get married tomorrow as long as it is with a woman. Yet gays or lesbians who have been with their partners for more than forty years—who speak of a steadfast relationship with ups and downs in such a way that I can only hope to have a relationship like theirs—cannot get married. Who am I to say that their love is somehow not valid or that their existence is wrong or somehow a choice?
Marriage is a bond, a commitment, a public statement saying, “We are in love and this is the person I will spend the rest of my life with. This is the person I will build a life together with. This is the person that I will raise my family with.” It is a testament to the love of two people and the incredible commitment they have to each other. It is not something considered lightly, and gay and straight, we all know that.
There are laws on the books in Minnesota that explicitly say marriage is between one man and one woman. The failure of this amendment does not legalize gay marriage, or civil unions, or domestic partnerships. My gay friends, the vast majority of whom I met and got to know at Concordia, will not be able to get married anytime soon in Minnesota. People of faith are on both sides of this issue. Some churches have been extremely vocal about their support for this amendment; many churches, temples, synagogues and other religious institutions currently recognize and embrace gay marriages in their congregations and would not be able to in the future if this amendment passes. The failure of this amendment does not open the door to polygamy or people marrying animals. It certainly doesn’t hurt my mom and dad’s marriage of almost 30 years, but it certainly hurts kids when they are told, “Your two moms or two fathers, who love and support you, don’t get to marry because their love is not valid.” Love is love, and frankly the world needs more of it (Burt Bacharach was right on).
There are legitimate concerns we can talk about when it comes to marriage for all couples. Putting this hurtful amendment into the Minnesota constitution shuts down that conversation for generations. So how about we leave it open? We’ve got less than two months to the election. Thirty states have lost campaigns like this in the past. We need to talk to people about our experiences with our gay friends and marriage, and we need to change hearts and minds. We can do it.
Here’s the deal…we do things differently in Minnesota, so let’s work together to be that first state to defeat this. Minnesotans United for All Families has over 600 coalition partners; twenty percent of them are churches or communities of faith—that includes Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, businesses, civil rights groups, people of all shapes and colors, fellow ELCA college Augsburg and over 50,000 donors large and small from Minnesota. We take all kinds and welcome them with open arms and a warm embrace. We are the largest grassroots campaign Minnesota has ever seen, and we’re getting bigger every day. We are making history.
Let’s make history together. Can we count on Concordia to say “Love is Love?” Let’s leave the conversation open and let’s Vote NO in November.
Letter written to the editor by Skyler Vilt, Concordia 2013.