Early last Saturday, a handful of Carleton students drove to Minneapolis to participate in The Big Gay Race, an event organized by Minnesotans United for All Families (MUFAF) to urge citizens to vote against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. Drawing well-known names like Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar to speak, the event made visible efforts on and off campus to halt the measure from passing.
“We need to take a stand here and show that Minnesota, a state that often claims to be liberal and progressive, [is progressive] whether or not we really are liberal and progressive,” said Zach Levonian ‘14, who ran the race and has been involved with phone banking for MUFAF on campus.
The Minnesota Marriage Amendment would define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman under the Minnesota State Constitution. In many ways the vote in Minnesota is following a national pattern of states turning to constitutional bans on same-sex marriages rather than statutes. Similar amendments have passed in 31 other states, and have proven to be much harder to repeal than statutes that ban same-sex marriage.
The amendment could eventually hinder Carleton’s ability to find the best faculty available as potential candidates who are married in states where same-sex marriages are legal would find their marriage not recognized under Minnesota law.
“Personally, I think this is one of those things where we collectively will look back at this and be horrified by what we’re seeing, and it’s important to be involved in this because it is a fundamental right,” Levonian said.
The event focused heavily on spreading awareness and energizing voters to continue their activism. “It was kind of like a Run/Rally. It was fun; there were a lot of people,” said Jordan Stevens ‘14, who is involved with the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) and ran in the event along with over 5,000 other participants.
“Seeing so many families out there, seeing so many people who are partners who have kids, seeing college kids running; the variety of people from all walks of life was really touching.”
On campus, the GSC worked to organize Carleton’s involvement in the race, citing that the event provided a distinct opportunity for broad student involvement.
“There are many people who are really tuned in to Minnesota politics, interested in activism and voting, and this gave [students] the opportunity to do that, but through a different lens, of doing something athletic,” said CSA President Michael McClellan ‘13, who helped to organize buses to and from the event.
“It’s an obvious way to get a lot of participation… the GSC is really trying to focus on is getting people to do events, who wouldn’t normally come to other events,” said Stevens. “It’s good to see the same faces over and over again, but we always want to reach out to other parts of the community.”
McClellan considered the race to be a great success. “I think that, on one hand it’s a visibility thing; when you see [nearly] 6,000 people all packing down the street and running this huge race, that’s powerful.”
He also noted the fundraising potential of events like The Big Gay Race. “It also raises a bunch of money between sponsorships and all the companies that wanted to sponsor this, and the registration fees.”
Although the polls show only a narrow lead for the amendment, many were optimistic that the amendment would be overturned. In addition, efforts to legalize same-sex marriage may be some of the next key laws proposed if the measure is stopped.
“…As I understand, if this amendment doesn’t pass, the House Of Representatives in Minnesota is going to try to overturn the law on the books that makes same sex marriages illegal, reverse that, and make it a reality,” McClellan said.