January 28, 2011; Source: Workday Minnesota | In Minnesota, labor unions are helping LGBTs and their advocates fight a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would ban marriage equality. Robert Carlbom of Minnesotans United for All Families, a coalition of more than 140 civic, political and religious groups formed in response to the anti-marriage equality initiative, said that the support of organized labor has been indispensable to this movement. “One of the key differences of how the battle is unfolding in Minnesota has been that the coalition against this amendment has united early and includes union members on our board of directors, which helps a great deal in getting our message out across the state,” Carlbom said.
When asked why union members are joining this battle, Mary de Leon Denton of the Saint Paul Teachers Federation said, “It’s all about basic human and civil rights. Contrary to the dominant narrative about unions, we have always been at the forefront, leading change to ensure human and civil rights are afforded to all, not just our members…As educators and union members, we believe strongly in justice, change and democracy.
“We have never amended our constitution to take away people’s rights, and union members recognize the inherent unfairness of this ballot question,” Candace Lund of the Minnesota AFL-CIO told Workday Minnesota. “The AFL-CIO has a long history of standing up for the civil rights of all workers, and opposes all forms of discrimination.”
The Minnesota coalition is a prime example of the kind of teamwork NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous called for at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Conference on LGBT Equality in Baltimore on Thursday night. Jealous said that LGBT and civil rights groups must unite and join forces for both movements to succeed.
“History has taught us that we can never win the battle for justice, equality and freedom when our soldiers are defined and limited by our individual silos,” Jealous told conference participants. “We can only emerge victorious when we unite for the common good of all.”
The union and LGBT “soldiers” in Minnesota advocating for the full equality of gay families appear to be heeding Jealous’ words. If more groups would do the same, they would effectively advance their shared vision of equality and justice for all citizens.
Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, February 1, 2012.