Arts and the marriage amendment

On this November’s ballot, Minnesotans will be asked if they want marriage written into the state constitution, defined as being between one man and one woman.

Lobbyists on both sides of the marriage amendment are rallying for their cause, and debate at the capitol is heating up.

But when it comes to artists and arts organizations, the majority appear to be in favor of gay marriage. The Minnesotans United for All Families Coalition is made up of approximately 250 organizations working to overturn the amendment; of them, more than 40 are directly involved in the arts, including among them the Guthrie Theater, Springboard for the Arts, Intermedia Arts, and Pillsbury House Theatre.

In addition, Minnesota Artists for Equality has put together a video message asking artists to use their creative know-how to help overturn the marriage amendment:

So why do so many artists and arts organizations support gay marriage? I put the question to Twin Cities artists and arts administrators on my Facebook page; here are just some of the responses I heard:

Sam Bergman, violist with the Minnesota Orchestra:

Assuming you’re defining “artists” broadly here: a) the number of conservative artists can be counted on one hand; b) many of us are either gay ourselves or grew up watching how horribly gay friends were treated by American society; and c) artists are by nature questioners of authority and agents of progressive social change.

Laura Zabel, director of Springboard for the Arts:

For me, this amendment is about what it means to be a Minnesotan. Much like the Legacy amendment, we have a chance to say, “Here’s what this place means. This is who we want to be.” I believe Minnesota’s identity is about beautiful environment, incredible cultural opportunity and a proud tradition of progressive openness and welcoming attitude. Those are the things that make Minnesota a place I want to live. There are also compelling arguments that link GLBT and creative populations as drivers of economic success…but for me it’s about identity.

Actor and writer Dean J. Seal:

Artists, by trade, put themselves in other people’s shoes, see through other people’s eyes, walk a mile in their moccasins. They don’t see this issue in terms of philosophy or religion- they see it in the stories of people who love each other.

Photographer Dean Riggott:

Interestingly, I’d estimate 75% of the artists (mostly photographers)I know to be very conservative with strong biblical beliefs and opposed to gay marriage. But often times artists and musicians are very rebellious and anti-establishment by nature and opposed to rules of any kind.

Actor Charlie Bethel:

I am an artist who loves rules, but I also know that rules are made to be broken. As a human being, I know that my highest purpose is to love and be loved by another human being. Marriage fosters this, so I support marriage. For everyone.

Screenwriter Marvin Joel Rubin:

I don’t believe artists are a monolith. Artists come from different classes, races, religions, political views etc. Sometimes despite the differences they come together.

Dancer John Munger

I notice that a large majority of the artists I know, including myself, give serious thought on a regular basis to the hard work of empathy. And it’s very hard work. Lots of people just don’t want to do it. They just want to be “right,” so what’s wrong with everyone else? But a large number of artists do it all the time. We have to. We’re trying to communicate. Any motivational speaker, social theorist, psychologist, counselor, therapist or genuine spiritual guru will tell you that, in order to communicate, you have to listen, and that’s how empathy begins.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts staffer Anne-Marie Wagener:

I think that art and freedom of expression go together fairly often and freedom, of choice, is certainly an issue that this amendment tries to deny.

and finally, from poet Paul Dickinson:

Because everyone has the right to be miserable…

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts is also a member of Minnesotans United for all Families. Executive Director Sheila Smith explains the MCA’s stance this way:

Minnesota’s creative community thrives because of the contributions of all kinds of creative people, including gay people. Passage of this amendment would hang a “not welcome” sign on our borders to a significant portion of the creative community and would cause damage to our image as a great place to be an artist. This amendment could limit our state’s ability to recruit the best and the brightest to be a part of our state’s future. Economist Richard Florida said in The Creative Class that regions with high concentrations of technology workers, artists, musicians, lesbians and gay men, or “the creative class” fosters an open, dynamic personal and professional environment, which in turn attracts more creative people, businesses, and capital. We believe in the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. That’s the kind of place we believe Minnesota is, and the kind of place we want it to be in the future.

So what for you is the connection between artists and the marriage amendment?