“Love always wins” – that’s the phrase on the minds of Pride organizers in the Twin Cities this week as the LGBT community continues to mourn for the 49 people gunned down at an Orlando nightclub earlier this month.
The largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history has led to increased security for Pride events in Minnesota, as well as a focus on healing and educating the public on the dangers that still face gays and lesbians in our nation. Even so, organizers in the Twin Cities say it’s also important the community here doesn’t forget to come together and celebrate.
One cause for celebration this year is a locally-made documentary playing as part of Pride week at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. How Love Won: The Fight For Marriage Equality In Minnesota powerfully highlights the historic defeat of the proposed marriage amendment in 2012 and the subsequent legalization of gay marriage soon after. Director Mike McIntee, of the independent news nonprofit The Uptake, gives viewers a deep look into what happened in Minnesota to make it the first state in the country to knock down a marriage-defining amendment.
“For 30 states in a row, this amendment had passed,” McIntee said in an interview this week. “Minnesota was the first state that stopped it, and, when we saw that happening, we said, this is a big thing, this is where the tactics that have been used for so long, that made people fear, didn’t work, and I really wanted to explain why that happened.”
McIntee’s 81-minute documentary focuses heavily on the psychological tactics used in the Vote No campaign. Instead of telling voters that gay and lesbian Minnesotans are being treated unfairly, the group zero-ed in on the idea of marriage, looking to show voters that same-sex couples want to tie the knot for the same reasons straight couples do – for commitment, fulfillment and love.
The campaign, which had strong, research-focused leadership and 18 months to get the message out, also had a secret weapon: conversations.
Dozens of motivated volunteers, many of which McIntee interviews in the film, would call hundreds of voters every week to talk about marriage and what it meant to them. The point wasn’t to tell people what to think, but to get them thinking, thereby creating the possibility of them opening their value systems to include their gay and lesbian neighbors.
“I think [this concept is] important to understand, because it’s those same things, that same strategy, that’s so important in reducing hate,” McIntee said. “You know, not just the hate that’s happening with the LGBTQ community, hate in general.”
How Love Won is a film of triumph, full tear-jerking moments of personal testimony and hands-in-the-air celebrations of communal jubilee. It received the highest audience score of any documentary to play at the 2016 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, and McIntee said viewers wept and laughed and gave the film a standing ovation.
Part of the film’s power (on local screens) is that it is, undoubtedly, a Minnesota story. However, McIntee doubts that any amount of Minnesota Nice played a role in the 2012 decision. Instead, the film’s message, he says, is one that can be useful today, amid a national political climate that is volatile and hyper-partisan.
And in the wake of Orlando, he says How Love Won‘s message is essential.
“The film shows how love can conquer hate,” McIntee said. “Orlando shows us that still, despite what’s happened in the last decade or more, there’s still a lot of hate and it hides in a lot of places…But there a lot of folks in that in between category that can be reasoned with and can be talked to. I think it’s just that much more important to reach out to them, and, within their own value systems, work to change how they think about people, how they deal with people.”
How Love Won is playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre for a week, starting Friday. The film is set to play at festivals throughout the state in coming weeks, and McIntee says he’s working on getting the documentary shown outside of Minnesota.