Minnesota Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum are among the original co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act which was introduced on Tuesday. The RMA, as it’s becoming known, would repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, thus legalizing same-sex marriage, and introduce a so-called “Certainty Provision” that would guarantee federal benefits for any couple whose home state does not recognize same-sex marriage but who get married in another state.

“I’m supporting [the RMA] because I believe in equality, I believe in people having rights,” said Ellison. “America started out giving certain rights for a limited set of people – white men of property…Since then we’ve been expanding rights, and this is on that trajectory.”

Rep. Betty McCollum could not be reached in time for publication of this story.

Controversy is brewing over the bill, however, as one of the House of Representatives’ few openly gay members, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), does not support the bill. As reported by the Washington Blade last week, Frank sees getting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and an expansion of federal benefits for same-sex couples through congress as the three highest priorities. Furthermore, he told the Blade, he does not think the RMA has the necessary support to pass.

“Barney Frank is giving what he believes to be good counsel,” Ellison said. “We’re not talking about principal, we’re talking about tactics and timing, I also think Jerry Nadler has a point – if not now, when? We can always talk about tactics and timing, but we always have to stand up in support of principal.”

The push for same-sex marriage, though, touches a nerve among some local activists, who contend that marriage should not be a priority, and benefits few in the gay community.

One Minnesota activist who goes by “Lady Enchantress,” summarized this position. The marriage agenda, he said, alienates a lot of queers who say “okay, I’m not rich or respectable like you — the faces being presented by the HRC don’t match my life or my concerns. For most queer people, the main concerns are health care, access to housing and access to services.”

He criticized the HRC because of how much the organization “consumes, in terms of donations, and locally we’re seeing organizations that really serve the community are struggling for funds.”

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  1. I can empathize with Lady Enchantress but would submit that legalizing same-sex marriage will benefit all GLBT folks, whether they wish to marry or not.

    Increasing access to health care, housing, and services are important. Legalizing gay marriage would provide spouses of GLBT people and their children access to health care benefits through employer offered health benefits. It would ensure housing can remain within GLBT families through access to inheritance laws. Same-sex marriage would also increase services to GLBT family members through government services such as Social Security and would enhance financial security of GLBT families through access to pensions.

    Further, just the advancement of any GLBT rights, including gay-marriage, enhances acceptance of GLBT individuals legally and socially. Enhancing acceptance and appreciation of GLBT people will help reduce the instances of maltreatment and discrimination and improve the quality of life of future GLBT generations.


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