On Sept. 17, members of student government gathered to vote on a proposal that would take a stance on the Minnesota marriage amendment to be voted on Nov. 6. After a lengthy and fruitful discussion, I am pleased to announce that Student Government Association voted to take a stance against the marriage amendment. The amendment is unnecessary (only heterosexual couples are currently allowed to be married in Minnesota) and hurtful to our fellow community members. Passage of this amendment denies the ability of students to create a real dialogue about same-sex marriage that we ought to demand concerning this human rights issue. This bold action of the administration upholds the dignity of all students and fosters critical thinking.
Some critics have charged that this action was due to recent campus events. This claim is simply inaccurate. SGA has been considering this as early as last May, when students emailed us urging SGA to take a stance.
There are, however, legitimate concerns that SGA’s action alienates students. We take very seriously the mission of Concordia’s SGA to represent students and address student needs and believe our vote best addresses them. There are two potential outcomes for the marriage amendment. If the majority of voters vote “no”, we all wake up on Nov. 7 and nothing changes. The status quo is affirmed. If the amendment is passed, members of the LGBTQ community and their allies wake up on the 7th, being told that in Minnesota a constitutional amendment now determines their worth. It limits their rights and compromises future action by defining marriage between a man and a woman. It is very clear to me which decision alienates students.
Others have questioned whether this was an appropriate action for SGA to take; I would point to an often overlooked aspect of SGA’s mission statement—“to further enhance the quality of life and education of the college.” If this amendment is passed in Minnesota, an amendment in our Constitution will reduce members of our community to second-class citizens. This complicates our ability to attract not only students, but also faculty and staff. For our institution to thrive and advance its mission, we must draw the best and the brightest. The passage of this marriage amendment hurts not only Concordia, but all Minnesota.
SGA’s official stance on this issue is a call for an open and forthright discussion on gay marriage. Our mission statement charges us with the obligation to be thoughtful and informed and it is difficult to be thoughtful when the state government has etched into its Constitution the black and white line of which couples deserve marriage. It is almost impossible to engage when members of society have silenced a real and valuable discussion on gay marriage. The passage of the marriage amendment is a conversation stopper. A “no” vote ensures that we as citizens can think thoughtfully and critically about whether same-sex marriage should be legal.
SGA is already planning events to foster a real and straightforward discussion about same-sex marriage. There will be a Town Hall meeting during BREW week. We are also in the planning process of co-hosting a panel with the Straight and Gay Alliance regarding religion and marriage. I highly encourage all members of the Concordia community to attend these events and engage in a critical inquiry.
This issue is undoubtedly important and affects countless members of the Concordia community. If SGA stayed quiet and refused the opportunity to create a dialogue, we could not expect anyone else to act differently. If we don’t use our collective power to stand up for the rights of our neighbor, it is wasted. I have received countless emails and messages from alumni and current students who are proud to call themselves Cobbers, affirming SGA’s decision. These messages remind me that inclusivity and tolerance is always worth fighting for. SGA will remain an institution that is not only open to dialogue, but promotes it. SGA will defend the dignity of all people. SGA will continue to challenge the Concordia community to question what values we want to uphold.
This letter to the editor was submitted by Meg Henrickson, SGA president.