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Same sex marriage (SSM), civil unions, etc. in Minnesota

Part 8: 2013-JAN/FEB: Poll of voters. Senate bill
to legalize same-sex marriage was being prepared.
Pro-SSM rally was held at the State Capitol.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

"SSM" refers to same-sex marriage.
"DFL" refers to the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party -- the name of the Democratic party in the state.

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2013-JAN: Poll of Minnesota voters:

Public Policy Polling announced the results of their poll into SSM on 2013-JAN-24. They surveyed 1,065 Minnesota randomly selected voters between 2013-JAN-18 and 20. Margin of error is ±3.0 percentage points. The results were:

  • 47% favor same-sex marriage
  • 45% are opposed.
  • 8% are undecided or did not answer.

  • Voters between 18 and 44 support SSM by a margin of 53% to 38%
  • Voters aged 65 and older oppose SSM by a margin of 54% to 36%. 1

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2013-FEB: SSM bill being drafted for the Senate:

During 2012-NOV, a referendum was held to insert a clause in the Minnesota Constitution. It would have restricted marriage to one woman and one man. It narrowly failed by a margin of about 4 percentage points. This margin probably does not represent the actual beliefs of Minnesota voters, because any who did not answer the ballot question were recorded as being opposed to the amendment. Three other referendums that were held on the same election day legalized same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine, Maryland and Washington State by about the same margin.

During 2013-JAN, an Equality and Justice Summit was held in Minneapolis. When interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio, participant Ruth Larson said:

"We have a Democratic House, Senate and governor. ... Strike while the iron’s hot."

Senator Branden Peterson (R) and Senator Scott Dibble of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party prepared to co-sponsor a bill to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Minnesota. It contained clauses that:

  • Allow clergy to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples with impunity if they wish to refuse to marry them. This is actually a redundant clause because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already guarantees this right to all clergy. However, including this clause may make some people opposed to SSM more comfortable with the bill.

  • Guarantee the same state-granted financial protections to children of married same-sex couples as are automatically received by children of married opposite-sex couples.

Peterson is believed to be the first Republican state senator to co-sponsor a bill legalizing SSM. That is a remarkable development. 2 There have been rare instances in the past -- notably in New York State where four senators voted in favor of a SSM bill, and in Illinois where the head of the state Republican Party supported a SSM bill. In Congress, three Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors for the Respect for Marriage Act that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). (DOMA prevents the federal government from granting to same-sex married couples the approximately 1,040 benefits given to opposite-sex married couples.) However Peterson is the first instance of a state senator actually co-sponsoring a SSM bill anywhere in the U.S.

Earlier, Senator Peterson, 27, helped place the constitutional amendment banning SSMs on the 2012 ballot. However, he appears to have had a change of heart. He is part of the contingent of younger American adults under the age of 45 who now overwhelmingly support marriage equality. Also, he is the son-in-law of a man who has been in a same-sex relationship for the past twenty years. 2

He said:

"At this point, I am concerned about doing the right thing. I have a certain amount of peace about that, and I will let the chips fall where they may. ...It’s only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal. I thought it was important to engage the issue now, and when we do it, do it right, and that there’s some perspective from the people I represent in that. ... I know there are other Republicans who are very interested in supporting same-sex marriage." 3

Sen. LeRoy Stumpf was the only member of the DFL party to support the constitutional amendment to ban SSM on the 2012 ballot. He said:

"I feel strongly in my beliefs that ...[same-sex marriage] it is not something I would support. It’s a sacrament in our church. I’m Catholic." 3

He appears to be placing the teachings of his church ahead of any other consideration, like the wishes of his constituents.

With other DFL members expected to vote against the bill, the sponsors might have to obtain a few Republican supporting votes in the House and Senate committees in order to move the bill to a vote in the full House and Senate.

Jake Loesch (R) and spokesman for Minnesotans United for All Families -- a group supporting marriage equality -- said:

"Republican support is something we want to make sure we have. Republicans are weighing this issue. … As this conversation continues in the Legislature, there will be Republicans who will vote for marriage [equality]." 3

Autumn Leva is a lobbyist for Minnesota for Marriage, the main group that is opposed to marriage by same-sex couples. She said that SSM supporters:

"... spent a lot of time and a lot of money telling people that the constitutional amendment was unnecessary because there was actually a statutory law defining marriage. Now we see that same group is trying to push for a change in the law, and Minnesotans are very hesitant on that. They say, 'Wait, wait, wait. I voted no on the amendment, but I didn’t vote to change the law'." 3

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2013-FEB-14: Valentine's Day: State Capitol rally by marriage equality supporters:

A rally was held at the state Capitol during Valentine's Day in support of the expected bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The rally was sponsored by Minnesotans United for All Families -- a group promoting same-sex marriage that successfully fought against the referendum in 2012-NOV to write an anti-SSM clause in the state Constitution.

Dale Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota said:

"We’ve been through quite a campaign, we’ve had quite a debate in Minnesota, and I think it’s time to consider this debate legislatively."

Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL) author of the bill said:

"It’s important to respond to what elections tell us. The last election told us this is where people want us to go, so we would not be doing our job if we weren’t taking up this issue and going ahead with it."

Sen. John Marty, (DFL) is openly gay. He married Richard Leyva in California during 2008. He wants to extend the same opportunity to loving, committed same sex couples in Minnesota. Currently, same-sex couples are recognized only as "legal strangers" -- as roommates -- in his state. He said:

"I think there’s a really good chance that it’s going to pass this year, and if so, things will happen very quickly."

At the rally he said:

"I cannot think of anything more intrusive than the government telling people who they can marry and telling churches which marriages they can solemnize.

The latter is a reference to liberal faith groups in the state that would like to marry same-sex couples. However, the existing law restricts their religious freedom by prohibiting the churches from solemnizing such marriages.

Rabbi Melissa Simon of the Shir Tikvah congregation said:

"In the eyes of Judaism, marriage links us to the basis of our faith."

Molly Tafoya is a spokesperson for One Iowa that, along with Minnesotans United, promote marriage equality. She said that it is important:

"... to have Minnesota stand up and say, ‘No, we don’t want this amendment, we don’t want discrimination written in our constitution,’ and then to ride that wave of momentum into what I hope will be a successful push in the Legislature. ... This issue has been heavily discussed in the last three, four, five years or so. I don’t think we’re going to hear a lot of new arguments."

As a result of the 2012-NOV elections, both chambers in the Legislature switched from Republican to Democratic control. However, some Democrats are likely to vote against the SSM bill -- particularly those from rural districts. A few Republicans are expected to vote in favor. The vote in the Legislature was too close to predict. However, with Rhode Island and Delaware both making marriage available to same-sex couples in early 2013, the trend is obvious.

Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) has promised to sign the bill into law if it it is passed by the Legislature. He said:

"Even if we had all the votes in the bag and we could just ride this one home, it’s still very important for us to really engage in a debate and conversation."

Kenny Deutz, vice president of the University of Minnesota’s Catholic College Student Group, said:

"I believe marriage, in itself, should [only] be between one man and one woman and that sex belongs only in marriage. What happens in marriage is a supernatural thing, a creation of life that can only be done between a man and a woman.

Actually, a woman does not need a whole man in order to conceive. She can substitute a supply of sperm and the assistance of a fertility clinic. Infertile heterosexual women use artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization. A rapidly growing number of lesbians and bisexual women in same-sex relations are also going this route. Meanwhile, some gay and bisexual men are engaging in surrogate motherhood. Adopting children is another option.

Deutz does agree with the concept of same-sex civil unions, which gives the couple most or all of the state benefits and protections of marriage without giving them the right to call their relationship a marriage. To many same-sex couples, the latter is the most important right that they seek.

Some of the members of his family are gay. He said:

"They are together, and they have a great relationship, but it’s not a marriage. ... Whatever happens, as long as people keep discussing it -- questioning it with the idea that people need to understand that they can be wrong -- that’s all that matters. We’re going to get whatever is right." 5

An individual admitting that their beliefs concerning SSM may be wrong is extremely rare. Very few people are capable of making it. Thus, true dialogue on same-sex marriage rarely takes place.

The main opposition in the state is coming from two anti-SSM groups: Minnesota for Marriage and the National Organization for Marriage.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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Site navigation:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Minnesota Miscellany," Public Policy Polling, 2013-JAN-24, at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/
  2. Esme E. Deprez, "Minnesota Republican May Be First to Sponsor Gay Marriage," Bloomberg, 2013-FEB-21, at: http://www.bloomberg.com/
  3. Baird Helgeson & Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, "GOP Minnesota legislator preparing to co-sponsor gay marriage bill," Star Tribune, 2013-FEB-19, at: http://www.startribune.com/
  4. Cathy Wurzer, "Dayton: Cuts, taxes needed to close budget gap," Minnesota Public Radio, 2012-DEC-06, at: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/
  5. Jessica Lee, "Same-sex marriage bills to be introduced," Minnesota Daily, 2013-FEB-18, at: http://www.mndaily.com/

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Copyright © 2013, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2013-FEB-24
Latest update: 2013-MAY-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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