Minnesota lawmaker’s gay marriage defense goes viral

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

Though Minnesota politicians voted to put a gay marriage ban on the ballot in 2012 yesterday, the eloquent words of one of the measure's detractors have caught the nation's attention.

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, gave an impassioned speech asking lawmakers on the House committee not to place a gay marriage ban in the state's Constitution. (Gay marriage is already outlawed in the state.) He also objected to the religious tone of the debate, as most of the people testifying in favor of the ballot measure were faith leaders or using religious arguments.

"I'm Jewish. Eating pork or shellfish is not allowed in my tradition, but I would never ask the government to impose that on our fellow citizens," Simon said. "We have to be careful about trying to enshrine our beliefs, however religiously valid you may believe them to be, in the Minnesota Constitution."

He then referenced a clergy member who testified to the committee that sexuality was a gift from God.

"I think that's true [...] and I would ask everyone on this committee [...] if that's true, if it's even possibly true, what does that do to the moral force of your argument?"

"How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?" he asked to applause.

The video so far clocked 80,000 views on YouTube, and has gone viral on celebrity and gay rights blogs. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton titled his post "How many gays must God create before we accept that he wants them around?" and asked people to "open your eyes, your minds, and your hearts to change!" Gawker wrote Simon's simple question is a "great new slogan" for gay equality.

At the Committee hearing, however, Bishop Bob Battle of the Berean Church of God in Christ said that he thinks gays already have full civil rights, and that same-sex marriage is not the same as interracial marriage, according to the Minnesota Independent,  "I don't consider gay marriages as the same as whites not being allowed to marry blacks," he said. According to Minnesota Public Radio, the anti-gay marriage Minnesota Family Council and the Catholic Church have both lobbied hard in favor of the amendment.

In a party-line vote, the measure passed 10 to 7. A similar measure passed out of a committee in the state Senate at the end of April, after lawmakers heard emotional testimony from relatives and supporters of gay Minnesotans.

"I frequently hear that the marriage amendment is needed to support and protect families. I ask you today, why isn't my daughter's family worthy of support?" Bruce Ause of Red Wing, who has a daughter in a same-sex relationship, asked the committee. "If this amendment passes today, how will I explain to my grandson that in the eyes of Minnesota, his family is worthless?"

John Quinn, the bishop of the Winona Archdiocese, testified that "marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and law must reflect what we know from reason, experience, tradition as well as revelation," according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Republicans took control of both houses last November, and while Democratic Gov Mark Dayton supports gay marriage, his approval is not needed for the measure to be on the ballot. Both houses of the legislature still have to approve the measure before it becomes law.