by Carin Mrotz

I stood in the sanctuary of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, in front of 550 people of faith gathered to support marriage equality. It was the official kickoff of the faith-organizing portion of Minnesotans United for All Families-a campaign to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that Minnesotans will vote on in November 2012.

I had been asked to lead an exercise on privilege and vulnerability, and as I stood there, the only Jewish presenter, the lone straight woman, and seven months pregnant, I felt like an expert on vulnerability. Just before the program began, the power had gone out, so we were working in the dark, without a microphone.

I'd been asked to start with my own story. This is what I said:

My name is Carin Mrotz, and I'm an organizer with Jewish Community Action. I just celebrated my wedding anniversary, and when I decided to get married, there was some drama. I'm Jewish, and my husband, Mike, is Catholic, and in some families, in some communities, that's kind of a big deal. Mostly, people were worried for us. They warned us that it would be hard. They asked, "How will this work? How will you raise your children? What will you do on holidays?"

It wasn't just us getting married. It was also our two families, from very different backgrounds, getting brought along for the ride. My mother-in-law was worried that she'd do something wrong, that she'd mess up a holiday and offend me. My own mother just didn't want me to have to struggle. I remember, on the phone, she asked me, "Can't you just live together? Why do you want to get married?" I remember I answered (in a completely respectful tone, I am sure), "Well, I mean, we want to. We love each other, and this is how we want to tell the world, in front of everyone."

We were married eight years last month. I spent some time thinking about all the things we heard when we decided to get married. The thing we never heard: "You can't." We took that part for granted. It was our right, and the thing about rights is that when you have them, you don't spend a lot of time thinking about them.

My fellow organizers shared their stories, too. All were members of same-sex couples. They'd been married by their clergy, in front of their families and congregations, but not legally by the state of Minnesota. It was a moving and emotional experience. At some point, the lights came back on, and I actually think some of us were disappointed to have lost the stillness and togetherness that we'd developed in the dark.

We're faced with a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex couples from becoming legally married. It's legal stuff, civil rights stuff. So, why all the vulnerability? Why share our stories? Why get so personal? To me, it's because that's what marriage is about.

It's true that marriage conveys legal access to things like health insurance benefits, property ownership, medical decision-making, but when you ask same-sex couples to tell their stories, those aren't the things you hear about. Same-sex couples want to get married for the same reason Mike and I did: Love. Commitment. Family.

I value relationships-whether in a campaign or in a community, or within a family. We enter into relationships with one another and we lift each other up when we're weak and support each other when we're strong. And as a Jew, I will work for marriage equality with others in my community. The anti-marriage amendment isn't just an attack on the civil rights of same-sex couples, it's an attack on my values, and on what family and community mean to me.

Carin Mrotz works as a community organizer and operations manager for Jewish Community Action. She lives with her husband and son in Minneapolis.

Editor's Note: This essay was originally published in a longer format in on,

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