It took four hours to drive to the Twin Cities on Thursday.
Four hours because we had to stop for coffee, and because my Google Map trailed off into “and follow the signs from there,” and because two people in the vehicle had to pee and absolutelycouldnot hold it, and because there was a detour, and because I am generally and (I suspect) permanently hopeless at navigation.
Finally we were in Dinkytown, but then came the shameless part: the rolling down of windows, and the yelling to pedestrians, “Can you tell us where Coffman is?” A few of them tried to help. Most just hunched into their headphones and walked on.
I’m sure they were just in a hurry.
We found the right building after a tense half-hour of driving in circles and running stop lights (sorry, Mom). We were late, of course, but then we walked into the theater-turned-Student-Senate-Chamber, and everything was fine. Because our own Josh from Morris, newly appointed chair, was speaking, and because everyone from the other van was sitting in a row holding up homemade signs. We slipped in beside them.
On the agenda for the meeting, among other things, was a rather monumental resolution, reading as follows:
RESOLUTION IN OPPOSITION TO THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT THAT DEFINES MARRIAGE AS BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN
On November 6, 2012, the men and women of Minnesota will be voting on whether or not to amend the state constitution to “provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” Because the approval of such a provision would directly discriminate against (and thus perpetuate the stigmatization of) those who identify with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community by depriving them of same rights and recognition under state law as heterosexual couples, the Student Senate of the University of Minnesota believes it must take a stance on the proposed amendment. In making its decision, the body has considered three points:
(1) The mission statement of the University of Minnesota, which states that in the exchange of ideas it is imperative to “provide an atmosphere of mutual respect, free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance”; and,
(2) The responsibility of the Student Senate is to deal “with any issue that affects the academic mission of the University or general welfare of … students” while still working “for the betterment of the University as a whole”; and, lastly,
(3) We believe GLBT students who are denied the full rights and recognition by state law that heterosexual couples enjoy are more likely to leave the state upon completion of their degree. As each student’s education through the University represents a significant investment in Minnesota’s future by the state itself, we believe the state has a vested interest in retaining those it has helped educate.
For these reasons, the Student Senate of the University of Minnesota believes the amendment is neither in the best interest of the University of Minnesota nor its students, and the Student Senate therefore rejects it. In addition, this body urges citizens – students and non – to stand with the GLBT community and vote against the proposed constitutional amendment.
The resolution was the reason for our four hour drive, and the shameless yelling, and the signs. We were all there on Thursday to support that resolution, and to support our GLBT friends, who are just as smart and driven and kind and beautiful and loving as ourselves, but who are in danger of having their rights taken away.
After some discussion; after person after person, straight and gay, liberal and conservative, stood up to speak; after I wiped my sweaty palms on my dress and stood up to speak; it came time to vote.
23 voted in favor of the resolution. 1 opposed. Several abstained.
And then I cried. Because there were friends on my left and on my right, and we were smiling triumphantly at each other. Because it was the first time that I had ever fought for something so important on such a large scale. Because it was a step toward equality, toward acceptance and respect. Because the University of Minnesota had become the largest institution in the nation to publicly denounce such an amendment.
We had pizza in Dinkytown, marveling at the “big city,” and how very many toppings they offered. I got pepperoni and balsamic. Not bad.
Then we drove the four hours back, not stopping until we could see the wind turbines on the horizon.
Our resolution is currently being published in newspapers and webzines across the nation. It is being discussed in University offices and mayoral offices and state legislative offices. It is being bolstered by thousands of students who refuse to let it dim.