Being from Mankato is a badge of honor -- one I wear proudly.
I recall respectful debate on public school referendums resulting in Dakota Meadows Middle School being built and lively lunch discussions with friends in the Mankato West Little Theatre.
The way our community pulled together during the 1995 meningitis outbreak makes me wish that the entire world could solve conflict as positively and confront adversity as effectively as we do in Mankato.
The values I learned as a young girl growing up in Mankato are the same values I'm teaching my adopted daughter, Samantha, today. Simple, Minnesotan values like treating others as we would want to be treated -- and respecting the freedom and dignity of our neighbors.
In less than five weeks, Minnesotans will go to the polls and vote on an amendment that would permanently limit the freedom of same-sex couples to ever marry in our state. Proponents of this amendment claim that this amendment is necessary to "protect marriage," and that this amendment is in the best interest of children.
The truth is that children deserve to be raised in the most stable and loving families possible -- and those families come in different shapes, sizes and forms. Some children are raised by a single parent; others by a grandparent or other relative. Some children, like my daughter, have an adoptive parent or parents. And others still are being raised in committed, loving households headed by a same-sex couple.
The overarching thing that makes every family stable and successful, though, is the same: Love. Love is what makes a family, and love is what defines a marriage.
I was proud to see the Mankato City Council affirm the fact that the community I grew up in and love is a welcoming and inclusive place by taking a formal stance opposing the Minnesota marriage amendment. Together -- as a state and a community -- the next step is to vote "no" on Nov. 6.
I have many gay and lesbian friends in committed, monogamous relationships, and I yearn for the day that I will be able to celebrate their marriages with them, just as I've celebrated the marriages of my straight friends and families.
I yearn for the day that my daughter's friends' families -- many headed by same-sex couples -- will be legally treated the same as our family. They ask for nothing more than the chance to enjoy the same freedoms that so many of us take for granted.
This amendment is wrong for our children, for families and for the future of the state we all call home.
As a mother, I'm voting no, and I urge you to do the same. On Nov. 6, let's make sure Minnesota is still the kind of state that all of us -- gay or straight -- can proudly call home.
Leah Solo is the political director for Minnesotans United for All Families. She graduated from Mankato West High School, then received a bachelor's degree from University of Chicago, and a masters in advocacy and political leadership from University of Minnesota-Duluth. She and her family reside in Plymouth. Her parents still call Mankato home.