In the ‘sleepy suburbs,’ a rainbow flag grows

Though it plays a little loose with a description of Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, The Atlantic is giving some recognition to an effort in Twin Cities suburbs to organize opposition to the same-sex marriage ban on November’s ballot.

The article, written by a New York Times community moderator, profiles the movement to distribute rainbow flags to the “sleepy suburbs” of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.

So off Henderson went to her home in Eden Prairie, a suburb of 60,000 filled with white-collar professionals, 94 percent of whom are Caucasian. That afternoon, she started going door to door with flags in hand. She was quickly joined by her neighbor Wendy Ivins. They took the picture-perfect neighborhood by storm, engaging their neighbors in respectful conversations. Soon, more and more rainbow flags began to appear in the sleepy cul de sacs, planted on large lots and hanging from wood porches.

On city blocks it would be easy to spot a growing movement, but in Eden Prairie, you have to drive past one spacious home after another to witness the trend. So Ivins sent an email to a few dozen of her neighbors: “As you may have noticed, there are many rainbow flags flying in front of houses in our neighborhood,” she wrote. “We are doing this to show support for our gay neighbors, friends and family members and our pledge to VOTE NO on the constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples.” She added, “Flying the rainbow flag is not meant to start a confrontation, but rather to start a conversation. I think we can all learn from each other.”

The article strays when it makes the connection between the 3rd Congressional District and the 6th.

Thirty minutes away is Anoka, where Michele Bachmann made a name for herself. As the Republican representative of Minnesota’s 6th district, she proposed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage back in 2003. In a 2004 lecture, she called homosexuality a “sexual identity disorder” and an “issue of sexual dysfunction.” Her district made national headlines after an upsurge of teenage suicides led to a Rolling Stone piece called “One Town’s War on Gay Teens.”

The 3rd District, however, is a moderate Republican district and has been for awhile. Rep. Jim Ramstad represented it for years until his retirement. It’s much more purple than the 6th, which is one of the most conservative districts, perhaps, in the country. His successor, Erik Paulsen, beat a DFL newcomer by only 7 percentage points in 2008, though the incumbent slaughtered a virtual unknown two years later.

The National Journal’s Almanac of American Politics points out that even though the 3rd is home to the Republican establishment, “it voted just 51% for George W. Bush in 2004, and in 2008, it flipped to the Democratic column, voting for Barack Obama 52%-46%.” Bill Clinton won the 3rd. Twice.

It is a district in which financial conservatism more than social issues is typically the big part of local campaigns. That the district would include a large number of people who would be opposed to the same-sex marriage ban, is not the “you’ll never believe it” story that the out-of-towner might want to believe.

  • jon

    Who would have guessed looking at MN from the outside that we weren’t all opposed to homosexuals to the same extent as Ms. Bachmann.

    Sadly this is the image that our state manages to portray… Though with the marriage amendment on the ballot, who can blame outsiders for thinking that…

    Even if it’s voted down, it won’t lead to same sex marriage being legal in the state, So really while other states are moving forward (in the name of an improved economy no less) we are moving towards locking ourselves into being backward…

    And we wonder why people outside the state think of us the way they do…

  • Robert Moffitt

    “… the 6th, which is one of the most conservative districts, perhaps, in the country.”

    Blame me, I guess. I live in the 6th.

  • Bismuth

    //Who would have guessed looking at MN from the outside that we weren’t all opposed to homosexuals to the same extent as Ms. Bachmann.

    jon – Is there really such a huge perception that Bachmann = Minnesota? I’ve lived outside the state for the entirety of Ms. Bachmann’s tenure in Congress, and have yet to meet anyone who holds that view. Then again, I don’t make it a point to bring up politics or to spend lots of time with people who do.

    Even if someone did try to paint Minnesota as a state full of Bachmanns, I’d remind them that you also elected Al Franken and ask if they know which state has the longest streak of voting for Democratic presedential candidates. (Hint: it’s not Massachusetts).

  • Tyler

    Anecdotal evidence #2: every time I leave the state and politics comes up, so does Bachmann’s name. I wish I lived in her district just to vote against her.

  • Beth-Ann

    The entire article is a delightful story of real Minnesotans and their churches reaching out to make sure that they are inclusive and supportive of all their neighbors so that our constitution reflects the best of who we are as Minnesotans and not the worst we can be.