A Pastoral Letter on the Marriage Amendment

I wrote the following for the church newsletter regarding the proposed Minnesota Marriage Amendment which would limit marriage to one man and one woman.  The thrust of this letter was to share why I stood where I stood, but do it (hopefully) in a spirit of respect towards those I disagree with.

I love chatting about politics and theology, but when you’re in the role of a pastor, you have to learn to be somewhat circumspect about your views.  I see the role of a pastor as one where I am called to serve everybody regardless of their political views.  Sometimes shouting too loudly about where you stand on an issue can turn people away, who might otherwise seek a pastor for counsel.

It’s with this caveat that I enter the debate around the proposed amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution that would limit marriage to one man and one woman.  My purpose here is not to tell people how they should vote, but give folks some background as to why I am voting against this measure beyond the obvious reason that I am gay and partnered.

First off, it’s important to note that we are not arguing about allowing same-sex marriage in Minnesota.  Minnesota statutes have already banned the practice and there has been no real attempt to have same sex marriage in the state.  So, no matter what happens on November 6, same sex marriage will still be illegal unless the legislature decides to not make it illegal.

I also don’t think that everyone who is in favor of the amendment is bigoted towards gays and lesbians.  People aren’t the cardboard cutouts we make them to be, are in fact, a lot more complex.  Some people do have animosity towards LGBT people, but for others its more about the specialness of marriage than it is about not liking gay people.  Some people that I have encountered are in favor of civil unions or will not object to gay marriage as long as there are cutouts for religious freedom.

What matters to me is not as much about love in the romantic sense than it’s about respect and hospitality.  As I said, same sex marriage is already against the law in Minnesota, so the passage of a constitutional amendment seems to be tantamount to “spiking the ball.”  That may not be the intent of the proponents, but to many LGBT Minnesotans and their allies, it will feel that way.  In a time when civility is so tenuous, a “Yes” vote would only add fuel to an uncivil fire.

It also reinforces laws that I believe foster an sense of inhospitality to people in need.  Four years ago, my partner Daniel woke me up with chest pains.  We drove a mile to a nearby hospital in North Minneapolis.  It turned out that he was having a gallbladder attack and needed surgery.  I can remember clearly him telling me to bring the legal documents we had drawn up a year earlier to allow me to visit Daniel.  Daniel’s sister drove from Grand Forks to see her brother.  At some point we were in a part of the hospital where only close family members could go.  Daniel’s sister could go in without papers.  Luckily, I didn’t have to show my papers and could join my sister-in-law, but it was only because of the kind people at North Memorial Hospital.  Again, come November 6 this won’t change, but having it enshrined in the state constitution seems allow hospitals and other public facilities the right to be inhospitable to Daniel and I.
I haven’t really made a religious case, at least not overtly.  But the Bible does call us to love each other, which can be express in a myriad of ways.  I think this amendment can violate the call of God to care for the strangers in our midst.

So, these are my views.  Some will agree with me and some won’t and that’s okay.  What I do want to say in closing is that no matter where you are on this issue, no matter how you vote, remember to love each other- even those you disagree with, because we all God’s children in the end.

Go and be church.

Dennis Sanders

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