Greetings from Keith Ellison
Editor's Note

Greetings from Keith Ellison

[Editor’s Note: Keith Ellison was elected in November 2006 to represent Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.]

Hello, Rainbow Rumpus parents!

Is anyone else glad election season is over?

Don’t misunderstand me. I enjoyed my campaign journey thoroughly. November 7 was a great and unforgettable day for my family and me. I’m so very proud of the positive campaign we ran. People responded to our positive message, our message of hope and inclusion and our vision of an America that’s better for all people, not just a privileged few. We proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that people hunger for this kind of message, not for months of personal attacks and negative ads.

I’m incredibly grateful for the support I had, including from members of the LGBT community who knew my strong record of standing up for what’s right and working for the civil rights of all people. I’m tremendously excited about the opportunity I now have to work for the Fifth Congressional District’s priorities: universal health care, middle-class prosperity, and major changes to our nation’s foreign policies, most especially our approach to Iraq and the Middle East.

On the whole, results across the nation on November 7 were vastly positive. But there were some dark spots.

I have spent a great deal of my life advocating for civil rights. It’s a long-standing family tradition. I grew up hearing stories of my grandfather’s work with the NAACP in Louisiana, organizing for voting rights at a time when those who did so could be lynched. This helped to inspire my commitment to justice and also helped me understand that getting into the business of deciding who gets to be treated with dignity and who doesn’t is dangerous—and wrong.

With my election to Congress, I now have the opportunity to work for the rights and well-being of people on a national scale. And here today, I want to spend a bit of time discussing with you, LGBT parents, the blows to civil rights that were delivered on November 7 and what I want to do about them.

I am very concerned about the fact that voters in a number of states came out in support of Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and civil unions. These were blows to the rights of all people. I am not gay, but when my gay neighbor suffers from discrimination, then I suffer and so does the entire community—just as we all suffer when my female neighbor is held down by a “glass ceiling” or when my new immigrant neighbor is treated in a way that makes him or her feel unwelcome in our country.

Why? Because every member of society has things to contribute, and the extent to which one is denied his or her civil rights is the extent to which he or she cannot fully contribute.

The implications of state referenda against gay marriage and civil unions are serious for rainbow families. The most important thing to a child’s development is growing up in a loving environment, a supportive home in which he or she can grow into a happy, healthy, productive adult.

If children’s best interests are truly foremost in our minds, then our focus must be on strengthening families and creating foundations for raising children in loving, supportive homes—not on the gender combinations of adults who want to form families.

We must take steps to ensure LGBT citizens have equal rights to adopt and be primary caretakers. We also must not enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution by amending it to ban gay marriage.

This is really part and parcel of my middle-class agenda, which also involves ensuring all who want to go to college have the opportunity to do so affordably and giving incentives to graduates to work in the public interest. It’s about the common good, about the rights of all people and the responsibilities we have to each other. When one group is not allowed to fully participate, then we all suffer.

I’ll be spending some time in Washington between now and January getting settled in before officially starting my term. However, I’ll be spending the majority of my time here in Minnesota, and I intend to continue meeting with members of the community through town hall forums just as I did during campaign season. I’m going to count on members of the LGBT community, parents in particular, to be an important part of these discussions. I don’t intend to legislate in isolation in Washington; I intend to get a lot of input from my constituents. How else can one truly be a “Representative”?

I’m looking forward to a productive future working with you, Rainbow Rumpus parents—a future in which the common good is the driving force behind how we govern in Washington and here in Minnesota. I hope to see you and continue hearing from you.