Marriage amendment booth pops up at fair

I had previously reported supporters of the 2012 marriage ballot amendment (that would define marriage as between one man and one woman) and opponents (those who favor marriage rights for same sex couples) missed the deadline for state fair booths, but there’s an update to the story.

Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition backed by the Minnesota Family Council, the Minnesota Catholic Conference and National Organization for Marriage announced yesterday that it has moved operations inside the fair.2011-09-02 12 45 01.jpg

“Initially, our coalition could not secure space inside the fairgrounds, so we set up just outside in front of the Church of the Holy Childhood,” John Helmberger, Minnesota For Marriage coalition chairman said in a press release. “Thankfully, we have been able to secure space inside the fair itself, and are now set up at Underwood St. and Wright Avenue, positioned directly under the Wright Avenue sign.”

Meanwhile, on the other side, Donald McFarland, project director of Minnesotans United for All Families told MPR News, “I’m sure the Minnesota State Fair hasn’t chosen sides in this controversial issue. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for why suddenly, in the middle of the fair, a booth appeared overnight.” McFarland said his group was told in July that the fair was sold out of concession space.

Fair spokesperson Lara Hughes wrote in an email: “Minnesota for Marriage submitted a registration requesting a license on August 31, they met all the requirements and we secured a location for them. If the Minnesotans United for All Families organization were to submit a registration requesting a license, we would certainly consider it.”

McFarland says he intends to follow up with the Fair. “We talked with the Concessions and Exhibits Staff. They were very clear that they were accepting no new vendors and that we could apply for next year.”

  • Alison

    Maybe this is for the best. People go to State Fair to have a good time with all of the people that make up Minnesota. I’m not sure that most people want to hear a message of intolerance in a place where all are welcome. The booth may backfire on them, inspiring those who have remained silently supportive of the civil right of marriage to finally take a stand against their hurtful message, which looks more ridiculous every day.

    Minnesotans United for All Families shouldn’t to set up another booth. They should simply encourage gay and lesbian headed families to go to the fair and have a good time, spending the day as their straight counterparts do. The best way to counteract the hateful intolerance is to prove them wrong.

  • First of all, I want to encourage Minnesotans who are sincerely wrestling with the issue of marriage equality to understand the long socialization process in this country that invisibly confers stigma and “wrongness” to one group while simultaneously and just as invisibly bestowing privilege and “rightness” to another.

    Knowledge is power, and the more we understand how unearned privilege is maintained and how we are “socialized without our consent,” the more quickly we will undo all forms of oppression and return to Minnesota Nice.

    Now, onto a few other specifics.

    State Fair personnel: To be fair, close down the Minnesotans for Marriage booth ASAP. Offer a public apology for allowing this to happen. And create documentation and redundant systems for 2012’s event that track who has requested space on which date, what was told them, what staff person took the request, and what the staff person told the group requesting space.

    Alison and your comment: Those of us without privilege in some part of our life have likely been socialized to be silenced or at most “nice” when those who have privilege and are “in charge” either intentionally or unintentionally slant the playing field to the privileged group’s favor. No one likes to be made out as “whining” or as “petty.” But this is NOT the time to be silent and look the other way.

    MPR: Thank you for your honest and (hopefully) thorough approach in providing this important update. “Knowledge is power,” and if someone at the Fair tipped off Minnesotans for Marriage about an available space, I hope that gets reported too.

  • Alison

    Liz, I’m not talking about being silent or looking the other way. Far from it! There is incredible power in gay and lesbian couples going about their lives out and open and just being. Indeed, I truly believe that this has been the biggest factor in getting us to the point where we are at now, where being gay is far more acceptable than even 10 or 20 years ago. I am transgender and I don’t pass perfectly. I have no choice but to be out. But I go on with my life with confidence, friendliness, and generosity. I never let my transness get in the way of starting a conversation or getting to know someone. My everyday, simple acts of being me genuinely have change attitudes and made allies out of people who never expected to be.

    There certainly is a time to make noise. I have been and will be right there with you at rallies, hanging signs, talking to legislators, commenting on blog posts, and writing to newspapers. I have done all of these things. But I think there is a time for making noise, and I’m not sure I would choose the State Fair. By putting up a booth at the Fair I think Minnesotans for Marriage (I hate even typing that name. It is such BS.) are just making themselves look like a$$e$. We can hold our heads high and not stoop to that level. But maybe it is just a difference in approach. If you think you can make a difference, change some minds, and do it with respect and dignity – best of luck to you! We’re all in this together and the variety of our approaches can be our strength.

  • Nancy

    It looks like the Minnesota State Fair has just opened themselves up to a discrimination lawsuit. That’s too bad, because that could require state resources. Can the state avoid a lawsuit if they discover one or more state employees acted improperly and then fire those that did wrong? Or does that not absolve the state of liability for damages caused by an employee’s error?

  • John

    MUAF shouldn’t take this sitting down. Since the state fair staff will not be responsive, you should contact friendly legislators asap and put the fair board on the hot seat. It’s unfortunate that it has to come to this, but they created the situation. If nothing else, it sets the state fair board up for some serious legislative hearing challenges next session or even in pre-session hearings which are not far away. An agency like the state fair board has to have a firm policy about things like this and stick with it or they get hammered from all sides including potentially the courts.

  • Quinn O.

    This shouldn’t be a surprise with all those churches running booths at the fair. Groups that varnish their ignorance and hate with “love” and “compassion” usually slip under the radar, but are more damaging than the ones that wear hate on their sleeves.

  • I was surprised to see the booth, my partner Alan stopped to talk to them, find out their position, and their talking points were questions, designed to get you to agree that we “should draw the line somewhere” but it was very disturbing because one point was that “people are marrying animals in Europe” and when he asked for specifics, nada (duh!). I got a photo of Alan talking with them, at the time there was a video camera on a tripod (filming those coming up to booth?), and wanted photos of the booth and as I was taking a photo, a woman there told me I couldn’t, and demanded to know “WHO IS THIS FOR?” and gladly I gave my full name and website (they did not have name tags on). Did MPR encounter the same attitude? Here’s my post and photos

  • Melissa Thompson

    I stopped by this booth, there was a young lady there asking “why she and her partner should be denied the right to marry?”, the woman in the booth said “We’ll let the people of Minnesota decide that, what’s wrong with that?” They went back and forth and at some point the woman in the booth got frustrated (I mean, after all it is hard to answer reasonable and logical questions from a position of complete and utter gibberish) and she barked “So do you think men should be able to marry their sisters? or kids, what’s next?” At this point the young women walked away in complete and total frustration, and I thought it was my turn to ask my question…which was going to be “Who voted on their right to marry, and if this “standard of voting on other people’s marriages were be applied to them, would they be so willing to give that right to strangers?” Instead I got a pamplet of “77 non-religious reasons of WHY to vote FOR the marriage ammendment shoved at me and told WE’RE NOT HERE TO DEBATE, TAKE IT IF YOU WANT BUT GO!” ……so I took it (want to see how bad it is …it’s bad) and walked away revealing the back of my homemade T-Shirt that read VOTE NO in 2012, my way of flippin em off.

  • Alison

    You have all got me thinking that maybe the best thing MUAF could do would be to get the word out to GLBTA folks to stop by the booth at the fair and pepper the haters with questions that reveal how ridiculous their position is. There are enough of us wandering around the fair to keep them flustered all day long. And like Carol, bring your cameras.

  • Janelle Holmvig

    I never know how to respond to these people, except by telling my story. I have four children. My oldest son is gay. He is a loving brother, well-scrubbed Lutheran, Lake Wobegon kind of guy, with civic pride oozing out of his pores.

    He is a Christian, and much kinder and tolerant than I of those who would have him live out his days as a second-class citizen. I am a mother bear and my heart aches every time I encounter those who are frightened of and reactive to diversity.

    I would love to avoid the fair this year, but can’t. My youngest daughter is a princess and is riding in competition. My oldest son is her chaperone, making sure she’s safe at the fair during the late hours she spends there.

    Our family deserves to have what every Minnesota family deserves. A future protected by Minnesota values–love and family. I want each on of my children to be able to marry the love of their life, and give me lots of grandchildren.

    My husband and I have been married for 30 years. If churches are against same-sex marriage, then they should not perform same-sex weddings. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. However, he did speak out against divorce. If these organizations that were formed to discriminate and keep good Minnesotans relegated to second-class status really want to be Christ-like, they should seek justice and love extravagantly. I don’t believe that divorce should be outlawed, but that would be much more biblical.

    Please leave your vitriol and mean ideas outside of the state fair gates. We just want to see the butter sculptures, eat cheese curds, and watch our princess ride her horse.

  • Roy

    I wrote the Minnesota State Fair an email during the early summer about my concerns about allowing Bradlee Dean and his organization, You can Run But You Cannot Hide, having a booth again in the Grandstand Building again this year. All I got back was a standard form letter about how they don’t practice discrimination and all opinions are welcome at the fair. You would have thought the fair administration would have looked more closely into the backgrounds of who they allow to have a booth. The fair administration also touted their “family friendly” atmosphere. Does allowing a booth by a person who says gay people should be jailed, castrated and executed show the “family friendly” face they want to project? I sure hope between now and the 2012 State Fair they take a really close look at who they are allowing booths.

  • Liz

    These comments in support of marriage equality and fairness are oddly inspiring to me.

    I especially appreciate the personal stories offered by some of you, and I like Roy’s point about being “family friendly.”

    Can we get family groups (PFLAG?) involved between now and July 2012 to put pressure on the Fair to determine just what and who is “family friendly”? Makes me wonder if that same family group–or some other group, like MN United for All Families??–can ask how the State Fair manager and related officials define what makes a family in the first place, in order to determine what is or isn’t family friendly.

    And what accountability measures are in place if a booth *isn’t* family friendly?

  • Jackie

    Yeah, I kinda wonder if the Fair picks and chooses. I know they give the only pro-choice group a really hard time. I don’t remember their name, but they’re in the grandstand. Meanwhile, there are THREE – that’s right three – anti-choice groups in the grandstand alone.