How can civility be improved between supporters and opponents of same sex marriage?

Gov. Mark Dayton will sign legislation that legalizes same-sex marriage in Minnesota. The bill signing comes after two years of debate, at times polarizing, across the state.

Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said he expects life to return to normal soon after Aug. 1 when the new law will take effect.

“Hopefully, when we pass this bill in a few minutes or a few hours, that you will find that next year when we come back here that everything is going to be OK in Minnesota,” Hayden said. “People are going to be fine and that we’ll find something else to disagree about but this won’t be one of them.”

Opponents vow the issue isn’t settled.

Today’s Question: How can civility be improved between supporters and opponents of same sex marriage?

  • John

    If you are gay, don’t tell me, I don’t care what you are. Why do gays always want you to know they are gay? So you can “bully” them? I don’t tell people I’m straight.
    My recommendation is to shut up. Go get married, I just don’t have to know.

    • Sue de Nim

      Gays don’t “always want you to know they are gay”. You don’t tell people you’re straight, but do you show, perhaps subtly and unintentionally, some contempt for gays?

      • John

        Ok, they don’t “always” tell you they’re gay but it happens more often than straights telling you they’re straight. Yes, because I don’t have a rainbow on my car I am unintentionally telling everyone I’m straight.

    • XPK

      It is a terminology called privilege. As a member of the majority your straightness is privileged in many aspects of American society. You don’t have to come out because the cultural assumption is straight until proven otherwise.
      If the GLBTQ community had “shut up” they wouldn’t be able to “go get married” today. It’s that simple.

      • John

        Ok, You can get married now. Take off your bumper stickers and gay pride BS. Like I said I don’t care, and most other straights don’t either.

        Get married, get divorced, pay fees, pays lawyers, its good you’ve decided to get in the mainstream. Just leave me alone.

        • XPK

          “its good you’ve decided to get in the “mainstream” – Mainstream was not the goal. GLBTQ individuals consist of maybe 10% of the population and will never be “mainstream”. The goal was more legal equality.

          “Just leave me alone” – Many GLBTQ individuals would prefer to have been left alone to live their lives as they saw fit, but the systemic legal/social inequalities in this country would not allow that.

          When people claim they “don’t care what you are” and that they “don’t have to know” you are GLBTQ while at the same time not doing anything to change the systemic legal/social inequalities that GLBTQ individuals are dealing with I’m not sure what you expect the response to be from the GLBTQ community. People in support of GLBTQ equality have had to beg, protest, demonstrate and lobby for the past 40+ years to get to this point.

          Perhaps the fact that you “don’t care” is actually part of the problem.

  • This is not a balanced question…Opponents of same sex marriage began this confrontation for political reasons and were stunned that they lost the political fight.

    They felt free to criticize many in our state including loving families, vulnerable young people struggling with their sexuality, clergy of different faiths, and supportive politicians. As the likelihood of change in the law approached they took on cries of victimhood and asserted they were being called bigots.

    Minnesotans United spearheaded a coalition that insisted upon respectful conversation. Even yesterday at the Capitol they trained volunteers and staff to walk through the Capitol and diffuse any confrontations between the 2 sides.Sure in any movement as huge as the one built statewide, that talked about personal issues, and was full of energetic young people there will be the occasional lack of civility, but it is not a core problem in those who worked for freedom to marry.

    I am worried about a backlash. Last week I received anonymous hate mail simply for writing a letter to the editor of the STRIB. I worry about the safety of my LGBT friends. Love prevailed at the Capitol, let the magic of that love continue to spread across our state.

    • Sue de Nim

      This is most certainly a balanced question. As a former opponent of this movement, I’ve felt the sting of hateful rhetoric from people on both sides. You think there was no anonymous hate mail going the other way? You may not have sent any, but I’ve received some in years past.

      • theoacme

        Let me put the question to you this way, Sue: let us suppose that you had all the civil rights women had during the Pentateuchal period…what would you do, and how would you feel?

        If you are unwilling to have these laws imposed upon you – ALL of them – but you are willing to impose your religious standards, as statute, over those people who do not worship as you do (or at all), then how can I trust you to be civil with me?

        I cannot trust anyone who is willing to violate the Minnesota and United States Constitutions, by imposing their religious practices and rules upon me – which means 95% of the Republican Party is untrustworthy, and unfit to hold any office of public trust.

        Further, the mere existence of the Republican Party is itself unconstitutional, because they now impose a de facto religious test to hold public office – concupiscence with the fundamentalist, so-called Christian right.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Those of us who supported it should avoid gloating, and should quit demonizing those with principled disagreements. Don’t sink to the level of the raging bigots. As I said yesterday (and several times previously), this move would go down a lot easier with conservatives if liberals would expunge from their vocabulary homophobia, homophobic, homophobe, and any other cognates of that word that might exist. It’s malicious name-calling, just as much as those anti-gay slurs we all know but are too civilized to use here.

    • really?

      but RAGING BIGOTS is okay

      • Steve the Cynic

        Thank you. I should have been more clear about that. By referring to “raging bigots” I was intending to draw a distinction between the likes of Fred Phelps and people with more rational opinions against gay marriage. The vast majority of opponents of gay marriage are not bigots, just as the vast majority of gays are not militantly anti-Christian hedonistic perverts (contrary to the rhetoric of the raging bigots). However, such extremists on both sides do exist. People of good will should renounce such behavior and attitudes.

  • I’m trying to figure out what would be civil about one side fighting to deny the other of equal civil rights.

    • Sue de Nim

      You could start by realizing that those on the other side don’t see it as a civil rights issue and find it odd that you do.

      • That is obvious. I’m just saying, what is civil about thinking that the only opinions or lifestyles free to be protected under law are just that which is their own? How is that a civil attitude? You can disagree with another, you can choose not to marry a person of the same sex, but demanding everyone can only marry as you and condemning those who ‘disagree’ to hell is not very civil. But, I suppose, civility means more to me than the tone of one’s voice.

        • Sue de Nim

          Here’s a start in trying to understand the other side: they don’t see themselves as condemning anyone to hell.

          • And I’m sure Hitler didn’t see himself as a murderer of the Jews either. It didn’t mean his opinions or actions were civil just because he was delusional or that mere disagreements existed.

          • Sue de Nim

            You’re not getting the point. Comparing the other side with Hitler is not a good way to win friends and influence people.

          • Just try to empathize with me for a minute, Sue.

          • Sue de Nim

            I do. I’m just trying to help you empathize with those who are distressed by these developments. They may be misguided, but they’re not evil.

          • Zachary Marko

            Hitler was a poor choice for an analogy, I apologize. My point wasn’t to suggest those opposing same sex marriage are evil or that they are of the same ilk as Hitler. It’s just that people can think they are doing something right, but sometimes good intentions misguided do more harm than good. (The Hitler comment was to point out that he seemed to think his actions were for the good of the people, even when treating one group of people as inferior in horrible ways. It was the point about supposed good intentions being wrong, not about the actual torture, abuse, etc., that’s not the comparison I intended to suggest.)

          • Luke Van Santen

            Sin going to hell? Going against God going to hell?
            Please clarify for us?

          • Sue de Nim

            If you think most Christians are obsessed with identifying sin in others and equate sin with going to hell, you are mistaken. Sadly, though, many misinformed Christians do give that impression from time to time.

  • First, let there be a celebration by same-sex marriage supporters. They fought the good fight for more than a generation. Then there will be more news and celebration the week of August 1st when the law goes into effect. And then…time will pass. There won’t be headlines anymore. More time will pass. And then, after more time, the entire issue will recede into the background.

    Pretty soon it’ll just be the way things are. Neighbors in Minnesota will always be good neighbors. Married gay couples will continue to move into homes on your block or my block and we’ll get to know them and they’ll just be Maggie and Sue who live down the street from us. Or Tom and Carl who like to garden as much as you do.

    Time will move on.

  • Sue de Nim

    How can civility be improved between people on opposite sides of any divisive issue? Begin with empathy. Try to understand the other side from their point of view. Consider yourself unqualified to debate the issue thoughtfully until you can summarize the other side’s opinion in in a way that they would agree is fair. Then try to figure out a way to explain why you believe what you believe in a way that they can empathize with and respect.

    Try this thought experiment. Call to mind some of the most strident rhetoric from the other side of some issue you feel passionate about. How does it affect you? Does it have any persuasive effect on you? More likely it either intimidates you into shutting up or riles you up to fight back. Most likely it hardens you in your opinion and undermines any esteem you may have for those folks. Now, realize that your strident rhetoric has exactly the same effect on them.

    • Steve the Cynic

      You’re absolutely right about that. However, the purpose of strident rhetoric is not to persuade those on the other side; it’s to rally those on one’s own side to greater zeal. Those who use such rhetoric understand this at some level. They’re not interested in civility; they just want to win. So the first step is for people to drop the adversarial attitude.

  • Paul

    As a gay pastor, I think MORE than civility will due us all well… love… in the end love wins, and I have found that in striving for love of even my “enemies,” I have found beautiful hope. For example, I have a close friend who is mourning the results of the vote… yes, you read that right, someone who wants to deny me a basic civil/human right… is my close friend. She and I certainly have a HUGE disagreement on how we understand the desires and actions of the God we believe in… but in spite of that, we can respect one another as people. She certainly isn’t going to be “won” over by hostility, anger or use of the word “bigot.”

  • Jim G

    Unfortunately, as I found out when I wrote a letter to the editor in the Star Tribune years ago on another same-sex issue, I was inundated by hateful letters from extremists on both sides. Moderate liberals and moderate conservatives have more in common with each other than with extremists. Believe in the power of love to effect change. Love your enemies, and treat each other as you would like to be treated. The Golden Rule applies in every situation, especially here.

  • Rich in Duluth

    It’s a simple thing, but just treating other people the way you’d like to be treated would go a long way toward putting civility into the debate. This means acknowledging that the other side is sincere in their view of the issue and wants to do what they think is right.

    While I am in favor of the new law, I have a friend who really struggles with it. He can’t seem to separate, in his mind, civil marriage from religious marriage.

  • I am not sure civility can be improved…especially when inflammatory language is used on both sides. But, part of the reason there is trouble is from either side failing to be completely honest. It has been dishonest for those against same sex marriage to pretend that society falls apart at the seams when it happens: recent and distant historical evidence clearly says otherwise. For proponents of same sex marriage, there will be a real burden born by businesses and marriage-related companies that will be forced, like it or not, to serve the gay community equally.
    In a debate context, the goal is getting to the truth and both sides have been ignoring each others truths.
    So, pay attention to each other: there are real issues & concerns on both sides; beware the lies you tell yourself about your own side.

    • Ann

      Thank you Joshua, I like your post. Sounds reasonable. But I’m unsure that I fully understand one thing. My family owns a wine shop. An estimated additional 5,000 weddings this year does not sound like a burden to our business. I hear you saying that equality supporters need to become more honest about the burden on businesses to treat all of their paying customers equally. If it really seems like a burden to these businesses, then I can see with open eyes & heart that supporters of equality are being dead honest when they see that as discrimination. I’m trying to put myself in their shoes. Thanks for your help.

    • I also don’t fully understand this: ” For proponents of same sex marriage, there will be a real burden born by businesses and marriage-related companies that will be forced, like it or not, to serve the gay community equally.” This isn’t something new with Marriage Equality. This was already the case with the Human Rights Act. So I don’t see how that applies.

  • david

    No elected person ever put his or her hand on the constitution and swore to up hold the bible during their swearing in ceremony. I don’t think a lot of people realize that. Religious freedom come with the obligation you can not force your religion on others. By trying to make outdated old testament hokum law you are bringing the fight upon yourself. Don’t you dare cry victim when there’s a backlash. Personally I just don’t care about gay marriage, but it’s a symptom of a bigger issue.

    • Sue de Nim

      Might there be a better way to describe the other side’s opinion than “outdated” and “hokum”?

      • david

        But again I was not the one to take a tidbit out of a really old and undocumented book and tried to make a constitutional amendment out if it. That was way out of line. You conveniently can ignore all the other silly, outdated, and just plain stupid rules in that book. Do not expect an apology for trying to force your beliefs on someone else. It won’t happen.

        • Sue de Nim

          And in so saying, you demonstrate that you have not bothered to try to understand the issue from the other side’s perspective. You are attacking a straw-man caricature of Christian doctrine. It’s not about a “tidbit” from Leviticus. Most Christians realize that the picky details of Old Testament law do not apply to them (and so, e.g., they feel free to eat pork). Rather, it’s about a worldview that considers heterosexual marriage a sacred thing and sees gay marriage as a sacrilegious parody akin to peeing on a crucifix. My opinion has evolved to where I can accept gay marriage within my Christian faith, but you have to admit it’s a novel idea and a human invention.

          • david

            That’s even worse! Marriage ( the word) being sacred is not a valid argument. You can not apply magical connotations to a word and use that as a basis for the formation of law, especially at the constitutional level. To the unindoctrinated that is insanity. Not seeing that makes you just as unempathetic as you are accusing others. Only when it suits you, you’ll take full advantage of those doing the rational thinking. That really bugs me, the hypocrisy in the moral majority’s thinking.

          • Sue de Nim

            You seem to be saying that since some activists on the other side of this issue have behaved in ways you object to, you are justified in expressing contempt for all who do not embrace your opinion. I have not insisted that you consider anything sacred; I have only opined that it would be good if you would have some respect for those who do. Upholding one’s opinions does not entail disparaging those who disagree.

          • reggie

            Sue, I agree with your last words, that this debate is entirely about a human invention, but it’s hardly novel. Taking in the sweep of human history, the narrow, “traditional” definition of marriage is, itself, a relatively young idea. Homosexual relationships predate Christian morality by, oh, say, since humans first stood upright. So there’s nothing novel about that. The social constructs by which we organize our cultures and legitimize relationships have been in a constant state of evolution. The way religious people pick and choose which parts of their holy books to follow seems like prima facie evidence of this evolution, and it undermines, if not completely obliterates the utility of basing a legal system on any religious doctrine or tradition whatsoever.

            Another thing that isn’t novel is the willingness of some groups to try to impose their “worldview” on others. What may be somewhat novel is the ability of disenfranchised individuals and groups to actually accomplish peaceful change. I take that as a sign of hope for the species.

  • Steph

    As a gay woman I find this question unsettling. It is my
    opinion that nothing civil can be achieved when the discriminated are made to apologize for the discomfort of the discriminators. Certainly respect for one another is always a good start to making us all feel safe. However, it is not my job as the minority to teach anyone else how to be a decent human and not to disrespect me (insert any other sentiment that encompasses the idea of withholding or taking away any right that everyone else is entitled to). When one side wants equality and the other side does not I worry that the only question being asked is how to make things “civil”.

  • Kathy

    I listened to some of the debate yesterday afternoon on MPR, and found that the more calm and open and reasoned the legislators were, the more open I was to hearing the other side of the issue. I so rarely give any time to hearing out opinions that “offend” me in some way. Compared to national politics, I found these men and women to be the “adults” in the room.

  • Tim

    MN civil rights law includes protection for GLBT. Since marriage in MN is a civil contract the legislator seemed to have got a portion of the law right. On the other hand there is a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. I am not sure you can just hope no conflict exist when a conflict does exist.

  • David L.

    Civility can be improved when people are willing to “walk in the other’s shoes”. I remember a poignant conversation with a man who related how his attitudes on supporting gay marriage had dramatically changed after learning that two of his daughters were lesbians, and realizing that the right to happiness and equality for those whom he loved so dearly trumped his long-held opinion on the subject. Indeed, when people begin to understand where the other is coming from, respectful conversation becomes possible.

  • Wally

    It won’t. GLBT activists will keep pushing “the envelope,” until we have “hate crimes” laws to prosecute those who say anything negative about homosexuality, as happened to a Swedish pastor. And radical GLBTs will continue to make death threats against “homophobes” and sometimes carry them out,as the guy who went to the Christian org in D.C. intent on mass murder, but only shot an unarmed security guard. Oh, you didn’t hear of that? Well, the GLBT-friendly and gay-controlled media will continue to ignored such attacks.

  • Mary

    I think it would help if people stopped presuming to know what God thinks and wants. That is something that isn’t possible to know as a living human being. It would also help if people thought about what they were going to say before they say it and consider it’s impact on others. There are ways of saying what you mean without being nasty to others.

  • Alex

    By legalizing cannabis, using it wisely, sharing it freely, kindly and curiously considering the possibilities within the plenitude for greater peace and prosperity than ever before. Live and let live … and let’s let Love and Life be.

  • I think the passing of this legislation showed that there already is civility between supporters and opponents of gay marriage. I did not hear of any fighting, assaults or even destruction of property at the state capital during the passing of the gay marriage legislation.

  • Matthew: 6:6

  • KTN

    When a leader and chief architect of Prop 8 (David Blankenhorn) comes out with an Op-Ed piece last summer explaining that he is done fighting the fight because of the the rampant anti-gay animus driving the opponents to same-sex marriage, well then, maybe there is a touch of bigotry happening. Harsh word no doubt, but sometimes the truth can hurt a little.

    I had spent a great deal of time looking at arguments from the right on this issue, and when I finally find an articulate, well reasoned argument, he decides to bail because of homophobia, how ironic.

  • Jen

    A few thoughts… In social psychology we know that “familiarity breeds liking.” As it applies to “civil discourse,” the more familiar a person can become with another’s views/beliefs, the more likely they are to communicate with that person with respect, making it easier for that person to engage in a conversation with integrity. Also, civility begets civility. Most people don’t have much exposure to civility. Increase it in our culture and it will be increased in our conversations.

    • Ann M

      Most of us that disagree with gay marriage have known gays and have liked them. We don’t agree with gay marriage and some of us don’t agree with their behavior. We don’t believe in carrying out all desires that we might be “born with” or , at least, not celebrating some of those things.Liberals wouldn’t vote for a person that owns a company that tests cosmetics on animals.People just agree to disagree–then respect one another.Once again, if the gov’t would take the word “marriage” out of legal documents, then each person could keep his or her own definition of marriage and families would not have the schools teach their kids something contrary to their own beliefs..

      • It’s not being familiar with gays that is at issue here, it’s being familiar with married gays (and lesbians). As people see that gay marriage has had no negative effects and a number of positives the passionate opposition will begin to erode. I actually agree that the government should have simply abolished civil “marriage” to be replaced with a civil partnership contract of some sort, which could then have been applied equally to all couples. Homosexuals have been getting married for many years now, religiously that is, and many years from now there will almost certainly be religions that continue to refuse to marry them. The difference between civil and religious marriage is so huge that they shouldn’t have the same name, and the fact that they do causes all sorts of problems.

  • Chris Wright

    Give it time. Acceptance won’t come quickly. Thank God at least some people can come out of the closet and live life free, just not the potheads, but that’s another issue.