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May 23rd, 2011

Minnesota Legislature Passes Constitutional Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage

By Patti Brown

Voters in neighboring Minnesota will have the opportunity to vote up or down on a same-sex marriage amendment to the state’s constitution next year. The Minnesota House of Representatives voted 70-62 Saturday evening to approve the measure which would put the issue on the ballot in November 2012. The Minnesota Senate passed the measure in a 38-27 vote earlier this month.

Since 1977 Minnesota state law has defined marriage as a union between one woman and one man. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he opposes a ban against same-sex marriage “with every fiber of my being” but he cannot veto the measure because constitutional amendments go directly to the voters. Gov. Dayton has said he expects the Constitutional amendment to be defeated by Minnesota voters.

During a 5-hour debate in the Minnesota State House, Rep. Karen Clark, a member of the Democrat farmer Labor Party, spoke about her 22-year long lesbian partnership and their desire to marry while her 94-year-old father could attend the wedding. Saying that she was a “child of Minnesota” she begged her fellow lawmakers, “Please don’t make me go off to Iowa.”

Poll results released Friday by Gallup show for the first time a majority of Americans—53 percent—expressing support that same sex marriages should be recognized by law as valid with the same rights as traditional marriage. This was a nine-percentage point increase in support for same-sex marriage, the largest year-to-year shift since 1996 when the polling firm began tracking this issue. In 1996 27 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage. Support rose to 42 percent in 2004 and has stayed roughly at that level through last year.

The uptick in support for same-sex marriage in the poll conducted May 5-8 came from political independents, registered Democrats and particularly among Americans 18-34 years of age where support rose from 54 percent to 70 percent. Republican views on legalizing same-sex marriage did not change in this latest poll.

Same-sex marriage has been a divisive political flashpoint across the country. This past Tuesday thousands of voters in North Carolina rallied at the general assembly building to urge lawmakers to vote yes on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. On Thursday, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill 62-11 allowing same-sex civil unions. The measure now moves to the Senate.

Last month, a Montana court dismissed a law suit brought by seven same-sex couples demanding the state recognize their partnerships and confer the same rights and obligations as marriage. In his ruling, District Judge Jeffery Sherlock said although he was sympathetic to the plaintiffs, “what Plaintiffs want here is not a declaration of the unconstitutionality of a specific statute or set of statutes, but rather a direction to the legislature to enact a statutory arrangement. This Court finds Plaintiffs’ proposal, although appealing, to be unprecedented and uncharted in Montana law.”

In March, the Indiana Senate approved an amendment to the Indiana state constitution banning same-sex marriage or any “substantially similar” status. The vote was 40-10 after the Indiana House had passed the measure 70-26. In order for the amendment to become part of the state’s constitution, the Indiana Legislature must approve the amendment again in 2013 or 2014 and then voters would need to ratify it in a general election in the fall of 2014. Indiana currently has a state law defining marriage between a man and a woman.

In a 16-14 vote, the Wyoming Senate voted down a bill banning recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. In late February, Wyoming lawmakers also killed a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage.

Also in March, the U.S. Department of Justice that it would not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage “as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and defined the word spouse as a “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton September 21, 1996.

In addition to Iowa, same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire and in the District of Columbia. In addition, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island do not have statutes defining the sex of marriage partners. Thirty-nine states have statues defining marriage between one man and one woman, although two of these states, Iowa and Connecticut, have had their statues invalidated by state supreme courts. Thirty states have defined marriage in their constitutions as a union between a man and woman and twenty of those states ban civil unions, and three states, Florida, California and Arizona, each passed a DOMA state constitutional amendment in 2008.

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About the Author

Polly Twocents
Polly Twocents is the pseudonym for the political commentary of Patti Brown, a partner in the Iowa Policy Institute, a research and analysis firm specializing in public policy issues. Patti is an Iowa mother of five who has a masters degree in journalism with a minor in political science from Iowa State University and an masters in social work from the University of Iowa. Patti worked for many years as a social worker in hospital, hospice and mental health settings. In addition she has also been a staff writer and columnist for The Catholic Mirror and a writer for The Des Moines Register. She is unabashedly and consistently pro-life and pro-family. As a bleeding heart conservative, Patti believes in a limited, representative government, personal responsibility, individual opportunity, and free enterprise.

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