Now we k”no”w about the no Vote


Hannah Kiges

Thursday's panel discussion.

Hannah Kiges, Variety Editor

The overflowing room buzzed with heated debates, heartfelt stories, and cheerful greetings. There was a tense undercurrent as well. Campus security guards keep post at the Conference Center doorways, and organizers keep an eye out for anything suspicious. On Oct. 10, Southwest Minnesota State University hosted a discussion panel about the upcoming vote to change the Minnesota constitution’s definition of marriage to say that marriage is between “one man, and one woman.” The panel was organized to exhibit the importance of voting no on the ballot.

“There’s nothing we want to change about marriage,” said keynote speaker and campaign director for Minnesotans United for All Families, Richard Carlbom. “We want the same thing we have seen in our families. The powerful growth and connection that comes with marriage.” The SMSU Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Ally club (SMSU GLBTA) has been working with Minnesota United to spread knowledge about the amendment and what it means for gay and lesbian citizens.

“The most poignant question we can ask voters is, ‘why did you get married?’” Said Carlbom in his speech. “If they don’t agree with us, that’s fine, that’s okay, but it’s important to get people who are on the fence to think about it. We want to start conversations.”

Carlbom was followed by a panel of SMSU students and professors, as well as local Marshall residents, who gave a diverse view of why voting no was important to them. Kyle Berndt, president of SMSU Student Association, saw it as his duty as a republican to show that just because his political party generally doesn’t agree, doesn’t mean he has to agree with them. Coleen Tully, a local Episcopalian priest, was also on the panel to prove the religious vote is not unanimously “yes.”

“Love is sacred. I love love!” Tully said energetically to the cheering crowd, “How could I tell a member of my church, my brother or sister in God’s eyes, someone I swore to love, that their love isn’t valid and they can’t be a member of my congregation? It’s heinous.”  Carlbom also noted in his speech that Minnesotans United has been joined by fifteen faith-based organizations, including unanimous support from Minnesota’s Lutheran Bishops, and Rabbinical Associations.

The marriage amendment has brought many different kinds of people to the front lines. Minnesotans United’s region director for the western Minnesota area, Luke Ferguson, didn’t always agree with what a “no” vote would stand for.
“I didn’t agree with gays and lesbians, I thought it was wrong and I was very vocal about it in high school,” he admits, “but I went to a very GLBT-friendly school, and I got harassed a lot about my negative beliefs. As I got older I realized that it’s okay to be gay, but I still don’t think you should disrespect anyone for their beliefs, whether you agree or not. I want to make it a respectful discussion for everyone.”

Campus Coordinator for Minnesotans United, and SMSU GLBTA Co-Chair Derick Schutlz, Professor of psychology Corey Butler, Public Defender Cecil Naatz, and Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) member Dorothy McCoy were part of the panel too. Butler shared his insight on his marriage with his wife, and his hopes that one day everyone will be able to enjoy the same happiness he has had. Naatz answered questions regarding the legality of issues with the amendment and things like civil unions. McCoy shared her story about her son coming out and his struggles with being gay, and her and her families support of him.

Intermission was christened with the cutting of two “Vote No!” cakes made by the Student Hospitality Organization, and cut by two local lesbian couples. A  short documentary called “It Could Happen To You” by Shane Bitney Crone was also played. It told the story of a gay man’s suicide and his partner being unable to have any right to see the body or claim any of the life they had shared together.
Shultz ended the panel with a powerful question, “40 years from now when you look back on this issue, will you be proud to say that you voted to limit the rights of people to love or will you look back and be proud that you took a stand and fought for equal rights for all people?”