Friday, October 05, 2012

Day 12: To the People of Minnesota

I have an orange sign in my front yard. My sign is identical to those dotting yards and covering entire neighborhoods in the city of Minneapolis. The message on the sign is simple.

It says, “Vote No. Don’t Limit the Freedom to Marry.”

I am uplifted and heartened by the sea of orange I see all around me. At the same time, however, I am well aware how close this vote is going to be. I know Minneapolis—in all its liberal glory—does not represent the entire state. I am painfully cognizant of the fact that no state has ever rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage when it has been put to popular vote. I hope that my beloved adopted state will be the first, but I am not entirely confident that will be the case.

So I am worried. Not so much for me. I know what is going on. I realize that this amendment is a last-ditch effort by those who fear the gains gay people are making in this country. A Hail Mary pass on the part of those who can’t see past differences and are terrified of change. I get it. Really, I do. I’m from the south, after all. If ever there existed a place afraid of change, the southern United States is that place.

I am, however, worried for my children.

When we first began talking to our children about the proposed marriage amendment, my oldest son, Lucas, became teary-eyed and asked, “Momma, if people vote yes, will Nicholas and Sophie still be my brother and sister?”

I can’t even begin to express how much this one little question broke my heart and rocked me to my core. I explained as best I could that this vote would not change our family. No matter what happens on November 6th, his mom and I will always love one another. We will always live together as a family. We will always be his moms. We will always love him. And his brother and sister will absolutely be his brother and sister until the end of time. This will be the reality no matter what happens in November.

I think he understands. I hope he understands. But he’s only nine.

Do you remember being nine years old? More than likely, you lived with your mom and dad and brothers and sisters. Your only cares in the world were what your mom was going to cook for dinner and how much math homework you had to complete before “Mork and Mindy” came on. You fought with your siblings. You went on family vacations to Disney World or the Grand Canyon. Your world was safe. You felt secure in the knowledge that your family would always be there for you. They were not perfect by any means, but you had no doubt in your mind that they were yours.

Now imagine being told that all of the adults you know—your friends’ parents, your teachers, your mailman, the guy who tells you when it is going to snow on TV—are going to vote to decide on the validity of your family. The only family you have ever known. They are going to vote to decide if your family is “real” and “right.” And you don’t know what will happen afterwards.

That is some scary shit we are putting on the tiny shoulders of our kids.

I am a 40-year-old grown woman. I understand what’s going on. Lucas is nine. He is in 4th grade. In 4th grade, when you are doing something wrong, the teacher makes you stop. If this amendment passes—if people decide that gay marriage is “wrong”—will the state make his mommas stop? Will they no longer be allowed to live together if they can not marry? Will he have to choose one parent over the other? Will his family be broken apart? Will his brother and sister no longer be his brother and sister? Will he have anyone left?

These are the thoughts that go through the head of a nine-year-old little boy when every adult he knows is going to vote to determine if his family is a “valid” family.

It is not right. It is not fair. It is not American. And it is certainly not Minnesotan. At least not the independent, progressive Minnesota where I choose to live and work and raise my children.

Here’s the thing though…the “gay marriage” amendment is really not about gay marriage at all. Today, I cannot marry my partner in the state of Minnesota. On November 7th, if this amendment passes or fails, I still will not be able to marry my partner in the state of Minnesota. Nothing changes. The only thing that will be different is that the next generation, our children, will have to work three times as hard to make gay marriage a reality when they come to the conclusion—and they most certainly will come to the conclusion—that we were all ridiculous for ever thinking gay marriage was an issue.

So all this vote is doing is sending a message to all of the gay people of the state—and the thousands of children we are raising—that our families are inferior. We are second-class citizens. We are not welcome here. I can’t imagine that this is the message the good people of Minnesota really want to send to my 9- and 6-year-old children. I can’t fathom that people in this state are really that callous and cruel. I refuse to believe it.

So I am imploring you…please do not do this. Please vote no on November 6th. You do not have to do it for me or for any of the other gay and lesbians adults in this state who understand what this is really about. Vote no for our children. Our kids who do not understand. Our kids who just want to feel safe and secure in their families. Minnesotan children who deserve to feel safe and secure.

I am begging you—not as lesbian, but as a mother.

Vote no. Don't Limit the Freedom to Marry.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully said. I am sharing on my page.

Barb said...

Here here!!!!

Anonymous said...

Toni can MN United contact you about telling your story?

Heather said...

Here's to freedom. For your awesome family. For all of us.

Sending love from the South.


Shannon Ralph said...

Yes, Gale. MN united can certainly contact me. My email address is

Thank you for all the love and support, everyone!

@fleetssara said...

A couple of weeks ago, I met a young boy, about 5 years old. He shared with me that he was going to a party so a boy could marry a boy and a girl could marry girl. This young man has a mom and a dad, but is so wise that he knows love is love and family is family, Just like your son. Thank you for sharing. I'm voting NO.

Anonymous said...

If your son is worried and whipped up about this, I think you need to take some responsibility for that. Where has he been getting the message that people are trying to invalidate his family? I can only assume from you or from some of your liberal friends who talk about the topic around him or perhaps liberal media you expose him to. I think that's just cruel to put a little boy in a position like that, to worry like that. Families come in all shapes and sizes. There are PLENTY of valid, loving families that don't involve married parents, or at least that's how I see it. I don't think it is right of you to give him the impression that a family that doesn't have a married couple as its head is not valid. Family can be single moms, cousins, grandpas, close friends - family is who loves you always and who is there for you when you need it. Are you callous enough to consider those to be invalid families? Don't cause him anguish by twisting your political views and then posting here with the fall out trying to get the sympathy vote. As you said, whether the vote passes or not will have NO effect on your family. If it passes, you can't get married to a woman. If it doesn't pass, you STILL can't get married to a woman. Leave the kids out of your political angst, that's my advice, from one mother to another.

Shannon Ralph said...

Dear Anonymous:

1. I can post anything I choose on this blog because it is MY blog. Feel free to boycott me and my "liberal friends" if you do not agree.

2. People who post on other people's blogs as "anonymous" are cowards.

3. If you read this article, you would see that I in no way, shape, or form ever called my family "invalid." Other forces are trying to place that moniker upon us. I agree with you that all families are absolutely valid. The only difference is that other families do not have to worry about discrimination against them being enshrined in our state constitution. Other families have a choice about marriage. Other families can, under the law, provide certain legal protections to their children that gay parents can not. Per yesterday's front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the arch-bishop of Minneapolis has given $650,000 in church money to support this ugly amendment. $650,00 could feed a LOT of hungry Minnesotans! I don't see him attacking "single moms, cousins, grandpas, close friends" in the same way.

4. Yes, leaving children out of the political process is a GREAT idea. Let's create a whole generation of people who are ignorant of politics and feel that they have no right to voice their opinions in the political arena. EXCELLENT idea!!

5. I have no problem with a "sympathy vote." I greatly prefer it to the Republican fear-mongering vote.

6. I don't need your advice "from one mother to another." Thanks anyway.

Ratchet said...

Your post is wonderful -- thank you. And your response to anonymous is even more wonderful! Glad to have found your blog and here's to defeating the amendment! Thanks for what you do.

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