#42: Witnessing Social Change

Posted by Megan on May 24th, 2013

I was born in the 1980’s. I didn’t live through the civil rights movement. I did not have to fight for my right to vote. I never lived through

Anyone is welcome on the Street!

Anyone is welcome on the Street!

Civil War on my homeland. All of this was already accomplished by the time I joined the world. I was raised in a world where anyone, regardless of race or religious, could show up on Sesame Street.

Growing up, I was notorious for repeatedly asking my Grandmother to “tell me stories of the old days.” She answered my endless questions and never discouraged my curiosity. But, I think we both knew that I would never really know what it was really like. Unless you’ve experience the growling knot of fear in your stomach, witnessed the hate, desperately struggled to have your voice heard, you just can’t understand.

Nearly all of these battles were waged long before my time on earth was scheduled to begin with one blaringly obvious exception; gay rights.  Somehow the injustice towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, has survived for half a century after African American and women’s rights have wrapped up.

 

I am grateful to all of the brave Americans who have championed equality over the years.

I am grateful to all of the brave Americans who have championed equality over the years.

 

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Usually you can’t look back in history and determine one day, one event, or one conflict that abruptly changes public opinion.  Instead, it’s a collection of baby steps. People change their minds one at a time. Their opinions shift day-by-day, their thoughts begin to reevaluate old beliefs and actively acknowledge their prejudices. It’s a beautiful process really, like watching a flower grow and bloom.

Of course some people will never change their minds. They will remain underground, a bulb forever.

Fortunately, I’ve never been forced to push against outdated traditions and values. I’ve always known that women can do anything men can. I know that all of us deserve the same treatment and the same opportunities.

I could write a 5,000 word essay about why I believe the LGBT people deserve the same rights and benefits as straight people, but honestly, I think that ship has sailed. I don’t understand how this is even a debate. I understand the point-of-view of those who have religious reservations about same sex marriage. But, our country was founded on separation of church and state. One of the fundamental aspects of freedom is allowing people to make their own moral decisions. Churches will not be forced to recognize or administer gay marriages. I am simply baffled as to how this conversation is still happening. This decision doesn’t hurt anyone. No one is a loser. Instead, it fosters love and promotes equality.

But I digress. This blog isn’t about the merits of gay rights, it’s about new experiences.

And regardless of your opinion, it is impossible to ignore public opinion shifts that have occurred in Minnesota over the past few years.

Only five years ago, nearly 70 percent of Minnesotans were against gay marriage. Minneapolis is a culturally progressive city.  Yet, despite our culture of acceptance and open mindedness, our state still openly discriminated against the LGBT community by consistently stifling efforts to allow this group the rights, benefits and status of marrying whom they love.

In November 2012, Minnesotans voted down a constitutional amendment to dictate marriage must be between one man and one woman.

In November 2012, Minnesotans voted down a constitutional amendment to dictate marriage must be between one man and one woman.

 

Then we changed our minds. In the span of two years, public opinion turned. Millions of Minnesotans objectively looked at the situation,listened and decided that the status quo was no longer appropriate. I was fortune enough to watch this transformation happen in many loved ones. They asked themselves hard questions, grappled and then allowed themselves to adopt a new view. The ability to have fluid opinions is a gift. It’s fascinating to watch people embrace it.

In November 2012, Minnesotans voted down a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In May 2013, our legislators followed the will of the citizens, and made same-sex marriage legal.

On May 15, Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize gay marriage.

On May 15, Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize gay marriage.

This is a huge win for the LGBT community, but it’s also a significant milestone for our culture as a whole. We’ve once again proved that the evolution and improvement of our culture, of ourselves, is still alive.

For the first time in my life, I have witnessed social change. I participated, shared my voice, wrote to my state senator and voted.  On May 13, I cheered out loud and cried tears of joy when Governor Dayton signed a bill that will change history.

Minnesota Govenor Mark Dayton signed the bill legalizing gay marriage in Minnesota.

Minnesota Govenor Mark Dayton signed the bill legalizing gay marriage in Minnesota.

This is a tiny example of the millions of similar social decisions that have shaped our culture. Whether you support this measure or hate it, you cannot deny that Minnesota has progressed to support the values of the shifting majority. I’m proud to be a member of a society that is humble enough to reevaluate and reconsider outdated traditions. Congratulations Minnesota!

 

  • © 2011 Megan Steil