A respect for human rights is one of the most fundamental principles of our nation. We should always keep this as one of our highest priorities. There are several current issues that touch on this. Some of them have had recent legislative action. All are of ongoing concern to me.
I am against requiring current state-issued voter identification to be allowed to vote. In my opinion, the push for requiring it is a thinly disguised attempt to disenfranchise certain classes of voters. It does not answer any real need, since there has not been any evidence presented that there is a meaningful incidence of identity fraud in our elections. Anyone who moves frequently or suddenly would be inconvenienced by this requirement. Classes of voters who would be disproportionately affected by this include young adults, the poor, and the elderly. Elderly people often are forced to move suddenly as they transition to assisted living or other housing, and the illness or disability which prompts the move also makes it difficult to go out to get a new picture ID.
Each of my own parents would have encountered difficulty with this. My dad didn't have a birth certificate, even though he served in the US Navy. He had ataxia, and let his license expire when he couldn't drive anymore. He didn't get a state ID because he didn't need it for anything then and it was difficult for him to go out. If he were alive today and the Voter ID amendment passed, he wouldn't be able to vote. It's a real hardship for elderly and disabled people to get to offices and wait in lines. It isn't right to impose new bureaucratic requirements on them to satisfy a politically motivated ploy based on false rumors of voter fraud.
I am a strong supporter of equal access to state recognition of marriages for all Minnesotans. It is unfair that we offer a host of civil and financial benefits only to straight couples. I believe there is great public good in the public recognition of committed relationships. It provides support and accountability that promote stable family life and community participation. I do not believe there is any threat to the institution of marriage if we allow gay marriages. I do not understand how the publicly declared commitment of some couples can threaten the same commitment made by any other couples. On the contrary, I think that we will do more harm to the status of marriage as an institution by continuing to deny access to it to some people. Many of the young people I know consider this unfair and hypocritical, and it lessens their opinion of the value of marriage in society.
Right to Work
I am opposed to so-called "Right to Work" laws. When I taught high school science, I was happy to join Education Minnesota, because it provided legal and insurance protection for me on the job. I learned from my grandmother and one of my aunts how important union representation was to them in improving working conditions. The debate about Right to Work laws centers primarily on the costs to business because of union-negotiated wages, and ignores the other good that unions have done for workers. Some people I talk to about this don't think we need unions to protect worker safety anymore. I think we need only look to what happened in the financial industry when we forgot the reasons for the regulations to realize that workers need the continued protection that collective bargaining brings.