SAINT PAUL, Minn. (BP)–In what could be a defining moment for both sides of the national “gay marriage” debate next year, Minnesotans will decide the definition of marriage in 2012 after the state’s House of Representatives voted May 21 to send a constitutional marriage amendment to voters.
The vote in the left-leaning state — 18 months away — could draw millions of dollars in donations to each side and will be the first major test as to the validity of several new polls showing a slight majority of Americans favoring “gay marriage.” Traditionalists argue that many adults espouse the politically correct answer of support for “gay marriage” in public, but in the privacy of a voting booth — and after considering the issue — they actually oppose it.
The House passed the amendment by a vote of 70-62, days after the Senate passed it, 38-27. Two Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DLF) members joined 68 Republicans in voting for it in the House, with four Republicans and 58 DFLers opposing it.
The amendment likely will draw nationwide attention and be second only to the presidential vote in state importance. It will appear on the November ballot next year.
Amendment supporters likely will focus on two themes that have proven successful in other states: 1) children need mothers and fathers and 2) legalizing “gay marriage” will have negative consequences on religious freedoms and impact what is taught in elementary schools.
The amendment comes at a time when a coalition of same-sex couples known as Marry Me Minnesota is suing in state court to legalize “gay marriage.” The coalition lost at the lower level but is appealing. The amendment, though, would halt the suit and tie the hands of state judges who would be bound by the constitutional language. The proposed amendment reads simply, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”
“The institution of marriage predates government and has served as the foundation of society for thousands of years,” Tom Prichard, president of Minnesota Family Council and an amendment supporter, said in a statement. “If marriage is to be redefined, it should only be society, speaking through the electorate who makes this decision, not judges or legislators.”
Both sides say the vote has national significance.
For traditionalists, it is an opportunity to thwart what many in the media and political realm view as momentum on the side of “gay marriage.” Minnesota would become the 30th state to define marriage as between a man and a woman in a state constitution and the 32nd state — when considering similar ballot initiatives — to reject “gay marriage” at the ballot. Courts tend to take a glance at public opinion when considering issues, and a “yes” vote in Minnesota could be persuasive in a number of high-profile “gay marriage” federal cases.
For liberals, though, Minnesota represents another chance to have voters, for the first time, embrace “gay marriage” at the ballot. Supporters of “gay marriage” suffered crushing defeats in two other left-leaning states — California in 2008 and Maine in 2009 — and believe Minnesota is winnable. Although Minnesota has showed streaks of conservatism — electing a GOP legislature in 2010 and a Republican governor in 2002 and 2006 — it has not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1972, the longest such streak in the nation.
Minnesota is unique in that it is bordered by three states that have marriage amendments — Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota — and one state, Iowa, that recognizes “gay marriage.”
“At a time when all Minnesota families are sharing concerns over the economy, it is appalling that the legislature would seek to harm a segment of those families rather than pass a budget,” Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual organization, said in a statement. “We are confident, however, that when November 2012 arrives, Minnesotans will reject these divisive tactics.”
Amendment supporters, though, say the definition of marriage does have an economic impact on society, with the breakdown of the family costing federal and state governments billions of dollars.
Francis O.S. Tabla Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Center, Minn., said government should promote the ideal family structure. Children need mothers and fathers, he said. Ebenezer is a Southern Baptist congregation.
“There’s a lot of things that the father brings to the relationship for the child that the mother will not be able to bring, and there’s a lot that the mother brings to the relationship that the father will not be able to bring,” Tabla told Baptist Press. “So they complement each other. When that is not the case, the child becomes confused — to see both of his parents be women or both of his parents be men.
Tabla added, “Even though I am a father to five, I have had to deliberately play the role of father to other kids in the church whose fathers are not in their lives, and it’s very, very demanding. It takes a lot from you.”
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage — which supports the amendment — said he is confident that Minnesotans will pass the amendment and define marriage in the traditional sense. The proposals have proven popular: Including the 29 states that have voted on marriage amendments and two other states (Hawaii and Maine) that have voted on the issue, voters have passed the proposals by an average margin of 67-33 percent.
“The vote [May 21] represents another in a string of stinging defeats for the gay-marriage group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and their state allies, and is further concrete evidence that the widely reported claim that same-sex marriage is inevitable is a lie,” Brown said, pointing to past defeats for “gay marriage” in New York, New Jersey and Maine. “Now Minnesota, another liberal state, is on the path to enact a marriage amendment. We hope that the media will start to pay attention at what the American people are doing through their actions — they are rejecting same-sex marriage in droves.”
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. The Southern Baptist Convention has a ministry to homosexuals. Find more information at http://www.sbcthewayout.com