Contrary constituents: Some Alexandrians support gay marriage
Political representatives in the Alexandria area say their constituents do not support the gay marriage bill that was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton on Tuesday afternoon. Many, however, are celebrating the decision.
Within minutes of the bill passing in the Senate, Pastor Scott Keehn of Alexandria received a text message from a couple in his congregation asking him to perform their ceremony. He accepted.
"All this really does is expand the definition of marriage to include loving couples who had been excluded," Keehn said. "It's about granting civil and social rights."
Keehn, a member of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, attended the House vote at the Capitol on Thursday, May 9. He said the crowd took turns chanting in support or opposition while holding their red "vote no" and blue and orange "vote yes" signs.
"My read was there were a greater number of supporters," Keehn said.
Senators Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, District 8 and Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, District 12 and Representatives Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, District 8B and Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, District 12B all voted against openly gay Senator Scott Dibble's civil marriage bill.
"In my mind, they are doing what is politically expedient," Keehn said. "It may come back to bite them."
Representative Jay McNamar, DFL-Elbow Lake, District 12A voted "yes" on H.F. No. 1054, supporting civil marriage. The bill preventing a provision to the Minnesota Constitution to ban same-sex marriages passed in the Senate 37-30 and in the House with a 75-59 vote.
Ingebrigtsen offered an explanation of his "no" vote on S.F.No. 925.
"It was a sad [day] in Minnesota. This legislation will forever change the sacred bond that is shared when two people are married. I proudly voted no, showing that mothers and fathers are still an important part of our society," said Ingebrigtsen.
Ingebrigtsen said more than 64 percent of his district voted for the traditional marriage amendment last November.
An Echo Press Facebook poll received 28 "yes" votes and five "no" votes when asked if readers supported the gay marriage bill passing on Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm disappointed, although not surprised, our legislators felt otherwise," said Jeremy Vinar in a post.
Heidi Nygard has been openly gay for 38 years. She posted, "Wow, as a half century year old lesbian, I read these posts and smile with my heart."
A voice for opposition was shared by Bethany Preston, "Business owners rights to refuse services for said 'weddings' were not protected."
A provision in Dibble's bill protected clergy and religious organizations' rights to deny marrying same-sex couples, but businesses were not included in the stipulation.
"Significant change is seen when gay people come out to their parents and say, 'It's not a choice, it's how God made me.'"
Pastor Scott Keehn
FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
Keehn said he speaks on his own behalf, but believes if it came to a vote, the church council would allow gay unions. The First Congregational United Church of Christ has an "open and affirming" process, meaning it accommodates for all people to be able to worship.
"I think this will be a good thing for the Alexandria community," Keehn said. "Our government made the right choice in this matter."
The change to the Minnesota marriage law this week has been likened to the Civil Rights movement and Women's Suffrage. Keehn said 50 years ago it was a fight for people of color to get the right to vote, 100 years ago it was a fight for women, 50 years from now gay marriage will be a non-issue.
"It is the willingness and courage of LGBT [lesbian gay bisexual transgendered] people to come out and make their voices heard," Keehn said. "That has helped to change hearts and minds. Significant change is seen when gay people come out to their parents and say, 'It's not a choice, it's how God made me.'"
Pastor Keehn is a member of the Inclusion Network (IN) in Alexandria, an organization that educates the community about differences and promotes the value of diversity. Steph Alexander will be speaking on the transgender experience at Foundation Hall in Alexandria on June 19. For more information, visit www.inclusionnetwork.org.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.