Group hopes personal stories will sway 'no' vote on marriage amendment
RED WING — If more people knew families like his, Bruce Ause believes, they'd have a harder time voting to amend Minnesota's constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.
"It's been pretty well demonstrated in other elections that TV ads and ads in the paper aren't as important. It's the person-to-person, family-to-family connections that make a difference," he said.
Ause, of Red Wing , first saw that demonstrated almost 20 years ago, when his younger brother was diagnosed with AIDS.
At the time, nobody dared talk about being gay, let alone having AIDS, Ause said, including his brother, who was a well-respected social studies teacher in Buffalo, Minn.
For two years, his brother fought the disease on his own with the support of his family, Ause said. Yet, when word got out that he was sick, the community surrounded him with love and support, Ause said.
"For the last two months of his life, people came to be with him every day, a wide range of people," Ause said.
When he died, the city named the street in front of the school after him and started a $30,000 endowment to help graduating seniors to go to college, Ause said.
Since his brother's death, Ause and his wife, Kathy, have continued to learn what community support can mean to a gay family through his daughter. A month before Ause's brother died, his youngest of three daughters, a college sophomore at the time, came out as a lesbian.
"It was a traumatic experience for her to come out," Ause said. "But we right away said, 'We love you no matter what.'"
Ause and his wife also found support when they joined Red Wing PFLAG, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, about 17 years ago.
The organization has held several events, increased education through workshops and high school classes and worked aggressively with legislators. Ause testified during House and Senate hearings last spring regarding his concerns about the proposed marriage amendment, including how it hurts his daughter, her partner and their almost 3-year-old son.
"In the state of Minnesota, there are 515 benefits available to my wife and I not available to them, and 1,100 federal benefits," he said. "Proponents say they need the amendment to protect and support families. How about supporting and protecting my family and my daughter's family?"
His and others' testimonies, however, didn't change the mind of lawmakers, who added the amendment to the November ballot. That's why he is among the people working to meet one-on-one with others to talk about how the amendment would affect them.
"We do have a pretty good core of people in the community of Red Wing who are very concerned," he said. "Like Rochester, Red Wing set up a domestic partner registry. We're proud of the community for that. For the most part, it's very supportive of the GLBT community. We're hoping to build on that."