In just a few short days, Minnesotans will vote on a highly-contested ballot initiative which would enshrine the definition of marriage–as historically defined–into the state constitution. This, as amendment proponents originally intended, would allow the definition to be protected from activist courts by ensuring that any debate on the topic MUST go through all citizens.
Though this amendment does nothing to change the status quo on gay marriage in the state of Minnesota (as gay marriage is not currently legal here), opponents see this as suppression of a “right,” while proponents of the measure such as Pastor Brad Brandon of Minnesota for Marriage see it as a reaffirmation of marriage’s definition. There’s a darker side to this debate, however; a side that goes beyond a differences of opinion. Brandon, along with those in support of the Marriage Amendment in Minnesota, faces routine attacks. He is often labeled a bigot. Worse still, he and his family have been subjected to not one, but four death threats. Brandon has photographed pro-Marriage Amendment signs that have been torn, defaced, and burned on private property all over the state of Minnesota.
(Photos Courtesy of Minnesota for Marriage)
Beyond the aforementioned destruction of property is the deeper concern- that is, the suppression of the rights of traditional marriage proponents Brandon, who has been working with the Marriage Amendment process since its inception in the Minnesota Legislature, gave several examples concerning suppression of religious freedom among those who oppose redefinition of marriage.
He tells of the Wirthlin family in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal. As part of what the Massachusetts education system calls “normalization,” same-sex marriage must be discussed with schoolchildren. The Wirthlins asked the school to notify them when these discussions would take place, so that they might be allowed to take their children out of school during that time, citing moral reasons.
“When the superintendent refused, (citing the request as unreasonable) Mr. Wirthlin informed the school that he would stay in the office until he and the superintendent could reach an agreement,” said Brandon.
The father didn’t get his agreement, but he did get a day behind bars after the school called the sheriff’s department. Mr. Wirthlin filed a lawsuit against the school district for the right to take his children out of school during the same-sex talks. The case was thrown out, and the judge declared that “the school has a duty to normalize same-sex marriage because it is legal.”
In New Mexico, photographer Elaine Huguenin declined to photograph a same-sex wedding on moral grounds. In an email which Brandon says he has personally read, the young woman politely explained that her religious convictions prevented her from doing the shoot. The couple complained to the Human Rights Commission of New Mexico, and filed a lawsuit. The couple eventually won, and the court awarded them $6,637.00. The case has made its way to the appeals court, where it has been upheld.
In Hawaii, Emmanuel Temple and Lighthouse Outreach Center are in the throes of a legal battle as a result of a new state civil union law that would require them to allow civil union ceremonies in their facilities. The churches have a quasi-exemption, which they immediately forfeit if they choose to allow a non-member to marry in their facility.
Right now, this is a state-by-state debate, and people may freely choose to relocate to another part of the country if they disagree with policy.
But what happens when issues of this nature are taken over at the national level?
Brandon has had the opportunity to work extensively with churches, church bodies, and individual families in Canada, where this has already occurred with gusto. Canadians are banned from publicly speaking out against same-sex marriage in their churches or even possessing literature of that nature. Even more frightening, home school families in Alberta are banned from teaching traditional marriage values in their own homes. In a conversation with LifeSite News, Donna McColl, assistant director of communications to the education minister, stated that “Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences.” (February 2011)
Brandon recalls the time that he was asked to speak at a church conference in Canada. Upon reaching the border, he and his wife were detained for several hours by border officials who questioned them as to the motives of their visit. Brandon’s work and beliefs in Minnesota clearly preceded him. Finally let go, they made their way to the conference where it was revealed to Brandon that the conference wanted him to speak, among other things, on the topic of same-sex marriage.
“The pastor told me that he had withheld this request from me so that I would not have to feel obligated to lie to Border Police,” recalled Brandon, who later found out that his talks with be subject to censorship.
“I talked about the homosexual agenda; I gave them updates on what’s going on in the U.S. with this matter,” said Brandon. “Afterwards, the pastor told me that while the information was great, they’d have to strike that record from any recording on their website, or otherwise face penalties.” Brandon was told they’d have to pretend as though that message have never been spoken.
“If you go to their website, you’ll see me listed as a speaker, and you’ll see that I spoke four times that week, when in actuality it was five times,” said Brandon.
Brandon also recalls how he found out from a conference attendee that “google ‘doesn’t work’ here in Canada.”
Puzzled, Brandon returned to his hotel room and entered a few phrases such as “what the Bible says about homosexuality” or “same-sex marriage is wrong” into the search engine. Nothing but favorable pieces on same-sex marriage popped up. Still struggling to believe that a first-world country would so restrict the thought of its citizenry, Brandon entered the exact same search terms once he was back in the United States, and to his surprise the results were quite different. Canada had scrubbed the search engine results.
“That is indicative of a real problem,” said Brandon. “When you look at totalitarian governments such as China or North Korea, that’s exactly what is done there to control the thought processes of their citizens.”
Back stateside, Brandon was intrigued by his findings; in particular because he says that when Canada does something, historically it is not long before the United States follows down the same path. “I started talking to more of my friends and other contacts in Canada to find out how Canada had reached a point of telling its citizens what they can and cannot believe,” said Brandon, “and I was told that what really brought it on was the legislation passed in the name of equality and in the name of tolerance as part of the same-sex marriage movement; as such they ushered in legislation that was tolerant of everything but Christianity.”
Despite how local and national media have tried to frame the argument, Brandon is not advocating a state ban on homosexuality as a practice, though his moral convictions lead him to believe that it is wrong. Rather, he is arguing against the redefinition of marriage, which is what he believes led to restrictions on freedom of speech and religion in Canada. In his estimation, redefinition puts those who hold a religious, moral belief to this end outside of the law, and thus subject to censorship or worse.
Writer’s Note: I was told of a local pastor who recently gave a talk on this amendment, and opened with the following line: “HE who designed marriage, defines it.” EXCELLENT.
Thank you to Brad Brandon for the time dedicate to making this piece happen, and for the incredibly difficult task that he and Minnesota for Marriage have undertaken to ensure that marriage remains defined as it has always been. To learn more about Minnesota for Marriage, please click here.