Few things are as symbolic of summer in America than a group of young kids selling lemonade from an upturned cardboard box by the sidewalk. Capitalism, youthful idyll, neighborliness—it's all in there, sweeter than powdered, lemon-flavored drink mix.
Two Sundays ago, the children of Southwest Minneapolis' First Universalist Church added "charity" and "equality" to that list when they set up lemonade stands after church to raise money for the fight against the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
"It was really neat—a lot of the kids had made posters during their time in Religious Education class, and hung those up to direct people from the sanctuary to the social hall," said Golden Valley resident and First Universalist member Maren Ahlberg, whose daughter helped greet parishioners.
"It was packed," exclaimed Felicia Bakken, one of the children running a stand.
"Some kids were pretty motivated," said Lauren Wyeth, the church's head of religious education said. "A few were acting like carnival barkers.”
All-told, Wyeth told Patch, the gaggle of kids ages five to nine raised $150 for the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance, which is fighting against the marriage amendment. The house-made lemonade cost $0.25 per cup.
"A lot of the folks that are here at First Universalist want to raise their children in a way that honors the diversity of families and honors all kinds of love," Wyeth explained.
Much of the activism against the marriage amendment has focused on bringing amendment supporters and undecided voters together with LGBT families and friends of LGBT Minnesotans. Opponents hope the campaign will give voters personal examples of who stands to loose if the amendment passes. Wyeth said the lemonade stand project was also intended to help kids feel more confident sharing their stories about their parents, a friend's parents, or about an LGBT relative.
"Those conversations come up on the playground," Wyeth said. "If other kids are repeating the anti-gay attitudes that they pick up from the broader culture, or their parents, or attack ads they’ll usually have more confidence."
Wyeth got to witness this first-hand, living in California with her partner and her six- and nine-year old children during the battle over Proposition 8. One weekday morning a few weeks before the final vote, Wyeth pulled up in front of her children's school to find the grassy median between street and sidewalk filled with signs supporting the measure, which banned further same-sex marriages in California. Anti-LGBT activists, Wyeth said, had placed the signs there illicitly, in the middle of the night.
"The boys asked me 'Does this mean the school is against our family? Does this mean the principal doesn't like our family?'" she said. "There was a certain lost innocence that came for them, that I wish hadn’t come at that tender age.”
“As a parent,” she added, “I wanted to know that when I dropped my kids off at school is that they’re safe, physically and emotionally."
Ahlberg said that her daughter Margaret hadn't yet encountered the issue at school, to the best of her knowledge. For liberal parents like her, the event was a bittersweet opportunity to directly talk about family values.
"I almost didn’t want to have the conversation with her because she was in almost a utopia thinking this issue didn't exist," Ahlberg said. "I explained that 'There are some people who think two men or two women shouldn’t get married like Daddy and I are married,' and she said 'That's silly. Why would they think that?'"
"I had trouble answering that," she finished. "I’m sure she assumes her friends’ same-sex parents are (legally) married."
Joanna Bakken and Jane Baudelaire, Felicia Bakken's mothers, told Patch that the amendment issue hadn't explicitly come up in their children's New Hope schools. Still, Bakken said, some of Felicia's classmates don't believe she has two moms.
"When you're a kid, you have to deal with that a lot—with being different in some way—no matter what," Baudelaire said. "That's what I teach the kids. Other people's opinions don't matter."
Baudelaire and Bakken said they liked the idea, but hoped the larger spirit that made the stands so popular continued, particularly if supporters of same-sex marriage eventually win that right some day.
"Everyone wants to get married, but what does that mean," Baudelaire asked. "We (the LGBT community) don't have a whole lot of role models for what makes a good marriage, and there are a lot of fundamental problems with straight marriage in this country."
"Defeating the amendment won't legalize same-sex marriage here, but let's say all of that happens," Baudelaire said. "We'll still need lemonade stands to support all kinds of love, not just homosexual love."