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

Part 10:
2013-MAR & APR: House committee passed
SSM bill. Promotion of the SSM bill heats up.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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"SSM" is an acronym for Same Sex Marriage.
"LGBT" is an acronym for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transsexuals.
"DFL" is an acronym referring to the Democratic party in Minnesota.

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2013-MAR-12: House committee passed SSM bill:

The House Civil Law Committee approved the bill by a 10 to 7 vote. In what is now a familiar pattern, all of the Democrats voted for the bill; all the Republicans voted against it.

Rep. Karen Clark (D), the bill's sponsor in the House, said that the bill affirmed the principle that same-sex couples should be given the same rights as opposite-sex couples. She said:

"In Minnesota, we don’t turn our backs on family." 1

Randi Reitan discussed Jacob, her openly gay son, at the public hearing. She said:

"We want Jacob to have the joy of a wedding, the firm foundation a marriage brings to families and the societal support that comes with all marriage.

Jacob Reitan said:

"As a gay man I should have the same opportunity to marry as my three [heterosexual] siblings. My desire to love is no less valid and no less worthy of recognition by our state as theirs." 1

Grace Evans, 11, said that children learn different things from parents of different genders, and that's why "God made it [marriage] that way." She also said that her mother:

"... is my role model on how to be a girl and I love her very much. My dad is also very important to me because he protects me and helps me get the confidence to be a girl who is growing up to be a woman. He takes care of me in a way my mom cannot."

She then asked the legislators twice which parent she could do without. They gave no answer.

Rev. Gus Booth of the Warroad Community Church said that same-sex marriage:

"... is not the will of the people. Before the election we were told we could vote against the marriage amendment and nothing would change. We were told that if the amendment was defeated our marriage laws wouldn't change and same-sex marriage would remain illegal. We now know that we were sold a false bill of goods." 1

It may seem to Gus Booth as if civil libertarians and the LGBT community in Minnesota were not being honest back in 2012-NOV. However it is important to realize that these groups' long range goal has always been marriage equality. They are willing to dedicate all their resources to attaining this goal as soon as it becomes likely to succeed. With three states legalizing SSM in 2012-NOV by plebiscites. with both Delaware and Rhode Island working towards marriage equality, and with the House and Senate controlled by Democrats, and with the Governor favoring SSM, this was the logical time to pursue SSM in Minnesota.

The bill contains a clause that preserves the right of clergy to discriminate against same-sex couples with impunity by refusing to marry them on religious or other grounds. The clause is actually redundant because clergy are guaranteed this right to freely discriminate by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, the clause was probably added to help religious and social conservatives feel more comfortable with the bill. With this clause, the freedom of clergy to discriminate against same-sex couples would be doubly protected.

A number of Republican legislators, including Rep. Mary Liz Holberg were concerned that individuals and companies that are involved in weddings, such as caterers, photographers, florists, limousine renting agencies, renters of wedding clothing, hall renters, etc. might be forced against their will to offer their services the full public, including engaged same-sex couples. However, as Law Professor Dale Carpenter of the University of Minnesota noted, existing state law prohibits businesses from discriminating against their customers on the basis of the latter's race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Making marriage available to loving, committed couples would not change that human rights law. However, it would increase the number of opportunities for conflict between companies and their customers.

Professor Richard Painter from the same university used to work in President George W. Bush's administration. He supports the bill, saying:

"Republicans understand that some things are none of the government’s business, and one of them is who[m] you marry."

He is wrong, of course, as evidenced by the final vote in the full House where all but two Republicans voted against the SSM bill. Another indicator is seen in an enormous number of polls which have shown conclusively that the vast majority of Republicans want governments to take discriminatory action by prohibiting loving, committed same-sex couples from being able to marry. However support for SSM is very slowly increasing within his party.

The bills now proceed to the full House and Senate. However, a group of budget bills took priority, thus delaying a vote on the SSM bill. If the party line vote seen in the Committees is replicated in the full Senate and House, then the bill should easily pass the Legislature. In addition, there is at least one Republican, Sen. Branden Petersen, who supports the bill. However, there are probably some Democrats from conservative rural districts who would be under pressure to vote against the marriage equality. 2

Governor Mark Dayton (D) promised during 2012-DEC that he would sign the bill if it is approved by the Legislature. If it becomes law, loving committed same-sex couples could obtain marriage licenses and marry as soon as 2013-AUG. 3

Videos of the Senate Judiciary Committee and House Civil Law Committee testimony are online. 4 The text of the Senate Bill 5 and House bill 6 are also available.

Some speculated that if SSM become available in Minnesota, whether a future referendum could repeal the SSM law. This is certainly possible. However, citizen initiatives are not permitted in Minnesota. A referendum would first require both the House and Senate to come under Republican control before the Legislature might do that. This couldn't happen until 2016-NOV when the Senate comes up for reelection. Then a referendum would have to be approved for the 2018 election. By that time, SSM would have been in place for half a decade. It would be extremely doubtful that a referendum would pass. Experience in other states shows that once SSM is approved, public support for marriage equality increases significantly. Also support for SSM is increasing nationally by one to two percent annually, while opposition is dropping by about the same amount. If these trends continue, then the margin between support and opposition will increase by 10 to 20 percentage points over the next five years. This might discourage Republicans from voting to return Minnesota to marriage inequality.

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2013-APR-15: California study shows that same-sex marriage would benefit state economy:

The Williams Institute at UCLA issued a report on the impact that the legalization of same-sex marriage would have on the Minnesota economy. They estimated that about 5,000 couples would marry in the first three years, adding about $42 million to the state economy: $28 million of this would be from marriage expenses. $14 million would be from tourism-related spending by out-of-town wedding guests. It would also generate $3 million of tax revenue for local and state governments. Counteracting this would be an estimate from Minnesota Management and Budget of a cost of $631,000 to the state's employees insurance fund, to accommodate the addition of same-sex spouses. 7

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2013-APR-18: Promotion of SSM heats up:

A big push to legalize SSM started with full page ads in the St. Paul and Minneapolis newspapers on APR-18. They were addressed to Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Paul Thissen, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. They were titled: "It's time to give every Minnesotan the freedom to marry the person they love."

photo of newspaper ad

The letter said, in part:

"As Minnesota business people, we strongly believe that it is in our state’s long-term best interests for the Legislature to ensure that all Minnesotans have the same freedom to marry the person they love. Supporting the freedom to marry is the right thing to do. It also is smart business."

They are taking the same position as did over 300 businesses that were signatories on the amicus curiae legal brief to the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Richard Carlbom, executive director of  Minnesotans United -- the main group in the state promoting marriage equality -- noted that if the Supreme Court rules in late 2013-JUN that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, then same-sex married couples throughout the U.S. will no longer be universally excluded from some 1,138 federal government protections and benefits. They would be treated in the same way as opposite-sex married couples. That will greatly increase pressure by business leaders and others in Minnesota to legalize SSM. Companies would find it increasingly difficult to persuade employees to accept a transfer from one of the 11 states (as of 2013-MAY-07) that recognize SSM to Minnesota because they would then lose benefits and protections for themselves, their spouse and their children.

The letter would seem to appeal directly to Republican legislators who have traditionally supported the health of the economy and of businesses. However, Republican voters are one of the few groups left where a majority still oppose marriage equality in the state. Thus, few Republican legislators are expected to support the bill. To do so would violate their prime directive: to be re-elected.

Autumn Leva, spokesperson for Minnesota for Marriage -- the umbrella group that is attempting to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from being able to marry -- had a negative impression of the ad. She said:

"In looking at the ad, what I see are metro area folks trying to conduct their social experiments on the rest of us. ... Legislators need to pause and consider, 'Am I voting based on what my constituents want or what lobbyists are telling me'?" 8

If the bill were to become law in its current form, it would become effective on 2013-AUG-01, the same date that same-sex couples in Rhode Island will be able to pick up their marriage licenses.

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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. Brian Bakst, "Minnesota committees to vote on marriage bill for same-sex couples," Associated Press, 2013-MAR-12, at: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/
  2. "Minn. state House committee approves same-sex marriage bill," http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
  3. "Same-Sex Marriage Bill Announced At MN Capitol," CBS Minnesota, 2013-FEB-27, at: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/
  4. "Video Replay: Legislative Committees Approve Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage," The Uptake, 2013-MAR-12, at: http://www.theuptake.org/
  5. Text of the Senate bill SF 925 is at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/
  6. Text of the House bill HF 1054 is at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/
  7. Doug Belden, "Same-sex marriage could add $45M to Minnesota's economy, report says." Pioneer Press, 2013-APR-15, at: http://www.twincities.com/
  8. Doug Grow, "Gay-marriage supporters making their big push at Capitol," MinnPost, 2013-APR-18, at: http://www.minnpost.com/

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Copyright © 2013, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2013-MAR-19
Latest update: 2013-MAY-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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