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Legislature Sends Marriage Amendment to 2012 Vote

The decision came on the heels of five hours of passionate debate.

Members of the Minnesota House voted to put a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman in front of voters on the 2012 ballot.

Despite an emotional five-hour debate, the vote came in at 70-62 Saturday, mostly along party lines, although four Republicans voted against the bill. The question will appear on the Minnesota ballot as a constitutional amendment in 2012.

The debate consisted mostly of testimony from opponents of the bill. Local House Rep. John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka) cited the United States Constitution, and his own conscience, as the driving factors behind his decision to oppose the measure.

“The 14th Amendment says no state can discriminate against anyone…A majority can’t deprive a minority of constitutional rights” Benson told his colleagues, urging them to stand for their conscience.  “Come on and show some courage.”

Freshman Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), a veteran of the Iraq War who lost both legs in combat, was one of the Republicans to vote against the bill.

“This amendment doesn’t represent what I went to fight for,” Kriesel told his colleagues.

The bill’s House author, Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) said the constitutional amendment was just an attempt to give voters a voice in an important issue. He brushed off criticisms that it violated the state or federal Constitution.

"I'm not here to interpret it vis-à-vis the bill of rights," Gottwalt said. "The 30 other states that have taken this approach have also, in their amendments, where they decided to do this, been found constitutional."

 But Benson disagreed.

“It all amounts to treating others as you want them to treat you,” he said. “In this political world we find ourselves, my conscience comes first, my constituents come second, and my party and my desire to be reelected come a very distant third.”

Protesters chanted throughout the debate. And after the vote, State Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), who is himself gay and was married to his husband Richard in 2008, spoke to those protesters.

“This movement keeps rolling on from today because we shall overcome,” Dibble told the crowd. “We are going to roll out of the Capitol and we are going to roll over the plains of Minnesota (and) we are going to show Minnesota who we are.”

"We've just begun to fight," the crowd chanted in response.

Michael Rose May 22, 2011 at 07:46 PM
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Aristocles May 22, 2011 at 09:26 PM
It's ironic that the democrats don't want the people to take a democratic vote on this.
A voice of reason May 22, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Minn. Voters have the right to decide this issue for themselve but I would have thought that they had more important issues to address.
Niko May 23, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Democracy is a vastly more complicated and intricate system than simple rule by the majority. There are countless occassions in national and global history where the majority held sway with unquestionably negative ramifications (i.e. genocides, slavery, disenfranchisement, etc.). We are fortunate to live in a nation whose founding legal principles and legislative cannon acknowledge the need to protect minority populations, often for the express reason that they are a minority and thus will generally have less access to financial and other resources to protect themselves and their rights. It is naive to believe that a vote of this matter will be democratic, as the funding for publicity in these campaigns has historically been severely skewed against gay marriage rights (which has a direct and documented affect on voting results). The foremost obligation of our government is to protect the rights of all of its constituents. The Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution states: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the priviledges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws." This amendment is unconstitutional, and it is no more appropriate to put this to a vote than it would be to vote on rescending women's enfranchisement or the prohibition against slavery.
guy davidson May 23, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Lets then protect all peoples rights..not just minority rights

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