Duluth rally promotes defeat of Minnesota marriage amendment

Duluth Fire Department Captain Dane Youngblom said his 28-year-old son, Kyle, lives in Oakland, Calif., because he feels comfortable there, and he wishes his gay son felt as comfortable and as totally accepted in Minnesota.

Cynthia Coffin-Langdon (left) holds up a shirt to check its size while Joann Coffin-Langdon watches before the start of Sunday's rally. Many people attending bought shirts or lawn signs opposing Minnesota's proposed marriage amendment. (Steve Kuchera /

Duluth Fire Department Captain Dane Youngblom said his 28-year-old son, Kyle, lives in Oakland, Calif., because he feels comfortable there, and he wishes his gay son felt as comfortable and as totally accepted in Minnesota.

"Nothing really happened to him here, it wasn't like he was bullied," Youngblom said. "But you go somewhere where you feel the most welcome, and California seemed to be the place. He's got a partner. They're not ready to get married. They've been together for a couple of years and they are still working on their relationship, but I could see them wanting to get married and I just think, what's different about them and my relationship with my wife?"

Youngblom and his wife of 36 years, Lynn, were among 350 people who rallied Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in support of Duluth United for All Families, a group of local residents and leaders that has been working for the past year to organize with Minnesotans United for All Families to defeat the proposed amendment that would limit the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples in Minnesota.

"You find that most people, the first thing they say is, 'You know, I have a gay uncle and I have nothing against gay people,' " Youngblom said before the rally. "Then in the next sentence they say, 'But I just don't like to have them use the word "marriage." ' And I understand that. Because years ago, I would have felt the same way."

But Youngblom said he learned of a man who spent three years caring for his gay partner. "You realize the depth of their relationship and you start to go, 'Hey, that's the same as mine.' It's no different. They want to get married for the same reason I want to get married. They want the whole community to recognize that they are a couple, that they love each other, and they want to promise this stuff. Yeah, it's two guys or two girls, but after a while it's not that important."


The Duluth Firefighter's Local 101 recently passed a resolution to oppose the amendment that would limit the freedom to marry. "I made the motion (to oppose the amendment) because it hurts some of our members," Youngblom said. "We just decided that we work alongside people that legally can't get the same rights and respect and benefits that we get, and we thought we'd just say we think it is wrong. ... It was not unanimous. There was some contention, but there was a clear majority."

University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey coach Shannon Miller also spoke against the amendment. "Being married is a fundamental freedom and I believe in love, I believe in a lifelong commitment and I believe in marriage; I've been married to another woman for six years," Miller said outside the church before addressing those inside.

Miller was married in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Addressing the rally, she defined marriage this way:

"Marriage is an important lifetime promise of love, commitment and responsibility. It is a very personal commitment between two human beings that love each other and believe they will spend the rest of their lives together sharing and growing that love for one another. That love they have for each other may grow their family from two to three or four, it may remain a family of two. What is important is that we are all equal and we all deserve the right to love to commit and to marry. The foundation of marriage and the foundation of family is love."

Kate Brickman is the press secretary for Minnesotans United for All Families and helped coordinate the event. "We are a conversation campaign," Brickman said. "We know from research that the more people who have conversations with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers about why they're voting no and why it's important to them to defeat the amendment the more likely those people are to actually vote no. For us, the power isn't in our talking points. The power is in our personal stories, and we all agree that we want to defeat the amendment."

The Rev. Robert Franck, pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Duluth, is one of four Lutheran pastors and a retired Lutheran pastor who signed a column written for the News Tribune in May supporting the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment.

Franck was reached by phone at his home Sunday. He said that by definition, marriage is a union of a man and a woman. "Marriage is an institution that's been as it is for thousands of years; it's not particularly a Christian institution," he said. "It's one that supports the raising of children by their mother and their father. I don't see it as discriminatory in any sense.

"The amendment as it's written is merely putting our current law into the Constitution. It's not one that even says anything about being homosexual. Not everyone can be married. For example, there's limits about siblings being married, limits on the ages of people that can be married. And our current law says it has to be between a man and a woman. There's good reason for that."


The Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment, which will appear on the ballet in the Nov. 6 general election states: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota? Yes or No? Leaving the box blank counts as a "No" vote.

Dane Youngblom
Dane Youngblom, one of the event's speakers, talks about his experiences as the father of a gay man. (Steve Kuchera /

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