As the election approaches, we'll be seeing more emotional gut punches in the marriage restriction debate--and more vital conversations about love and family. In Faribault right now, people are thinking about the children--and what balance should be struck between campaign tactics, freedom of speech and the sensibilities of the young.
In All the Archbishop’s Men: Using 4 year-olds’ Backpacks to Deliver a Vote Yes Message, my friend Javier Morillo-Alicea writes:
We also know from past successful efforts to pass similar amendments that our opponents use a deliberate strategy of creating fear among parents about what their kids will learn in school if the amendment doesn’t pass. They prey on parent’s fears that kids will learn about difficult topics in school rather than in the home, that they won’t be able to control how their children learn values.
Morillo-Alicea tells the story of a Christian pre-school sending a note home a four-year-old, then shares a letter to the pastor from the boy's mother. Go read it: it's moving and emblematic of the sort of eloquence that comes from when a family member defends cherished GLBT siblings.
Mercy me in Faribault
Two parallel cases are being reported in the press. The first is from Faribault, where a Catholic grade school has peppered its lawns with "Vote Yes" signs. After passing by the school, Liz Fritz posted on the Faribault Daily News' Facebook page on Sunday:
I think someone should do something about the signs in front Devine mercey school. "Marriage is between a man and a women"! For 1 thing its a political thing in front of an elementary school. 2nd is don't you think there is at least 1 or 2 kids that go to school there that just might be gay? Or have parents that are? Kids getting picked on in school is such a huge thing right now. I feel like those add fuel to the fire and are just wrong. They belong in your yard, NOT in front of an elementary school!!!
So far, her comment has triggered 181 comments, and an article in the newspaper. Both are worth checking out. In Faribault Catholic school posts signs supporting marriage amendment, Rebecca Rodenberg reports:
City ordinance doesn't address it, state law allows it, and the IRS doesn't appear to restrict it.
The First Amendment, however, protects it.
But that isn't keeping a number of locals from voicing their disapproval for signs that showed up in front of a Catholic grade school over the weekend. The Faribault Daily News Facebook page has been flooded with messages from one side or the other since one resident posed the question Sunday evening.
Liz Fritz saw the signs on her way to work Saturday morning. The signs, placed in front of Divine Mercy Catholic School on Third Avenue, promote voting for a statewide ballot question that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The signs tell people to "vote yes" and that marriage is between "one man, one woman."
"I felt betrayed," Fritz said. "I went to school there and I know how hard it is to be a third-grader and be told you're supposed to marry a man but know that that's not what you're feeling or thinking. I know how it feels to be different and it just hurts to know the kids going there now are going to be even more reminded of that."
But Associate Pastor and Assistant School Principal the Rev. Erik Lundgren says the decision to put up the signs wasn't one taken lightly. A group of local marriage amendment supporters from the parish asked to put the signs up and, since the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has pushed for support of the campaign, school and church officials said yes.
"Being a Catholic is really about living out your faith and we take political decisions very seriously," Lundgren said. "We are asked to not just shape ourselves but shape the world."
Fritz's post spurred debate -- by Monday morning more than 50 people had given their input on the issue on the paper's Facebook page. The discussion jumped from whether or not the signs should be allowed in front of the school to opinions on religion and the ballot question itself.
It's clear from the robust debate that people want a conversation about the amendment, and while many of the opinions are as rigid as they are vernacular, the extended discussion underscores the strength of the Minnesotans United For All Families approach. Go read both article and Facebook thread.
Dirty doubling down in Douglas County
The second Greater Minnesota incident? State Representative Mary Franson, our lady of the funhouse mirrors, appears as a life-meets-SNL cameo, sharing the sort of fearmongering Morillo anticipates. She'd shared:
a deliberate strategy of creating fear among parents about what their kids will learn in school if the amendment doesn’t pass. They prey on parent’s fears that kids will learn about difficult topics in school rather than in the home, that they won’t be able to control how their children learn values. . . .
. . .in a debate on Pioner Public Television in Appleton. Bluestem had posted the video on Sunday--and City Pages' Aaron Rupar, then Raw Story, Think Progress and others picked up on the fearmongering. In Franson: Homosexuality isn't normal, Rupar writes:
During a debate with her DFL challenger last Thursday, Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, tried to explain her opposition to gay marriage.
I say "tried to" because her explanation was a stammering mess. Nonetheless, the thread of an anti-gay marriage argument emerged, and it goes something like this: Gayness isn't normal, therefore gay marriage should remain illegal.
Franson also expressed concern that if the marriage amendment is defeated, Minnesota's public schools might follow Massachusetts' alleged practice of indoctrinating students to (gasp!) accept homosexuality as something normal. . . .
Think Progress points out:
Back to Morillo-Alicea. He's got a great suggestion when it comes to politicizing the space of childhood during the coming weeks:
Can we all agree that using children as unwitting political footballs is unwise? If we believe that children should learn their values in the home, should that not be true of all sides on this volatile issue in this political season?
Veterans to defend marriage freedom
A final note: some adults are leading a discussion beginning tomorrow. Longtime marriage freedom advocate Congressman Tim Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress, Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt, whose gay son paid the ultimate price in Afghanistan, and other veterans will launch a veterans group opposed to marriage amendment, Joe Kimball reports in MinnPost.
Photos: Archbishop Nienstadt and other pro-marriage restriction amendment clergy, via TIP (above); A sign at Divine Mercy grade school in Faribault (via the Faribault Daily News, below).