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Minnesota Legislature

New Law: Voters to decide marriage definition

Published (7/15/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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As Minnesotans watch candidates line up for the 2012 presidential ticket, they can be assured of one ballot question that will likely be a catalyst for high voter turnout.

The House and Senate passed legislation to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot asking voters whether to define marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.”

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), the measure does not require gubernatorial approval. However, Gov. Mark Dayton issued a “veto” letter as a symbolic gesture of his opposition.

“Although I do not have the power to prevent this … I urge Minnesotans to reject this mean-spirited, divisive, un-Minnesotan and un-American amendment,” he wrote.

Opponents and proponents rallied at the Capitol for several days before and during the floor debate, chanting, singing and displaying signs with their views. During a nearly five-hour debate inside the House Chamber, several legislators gave personal accounts of why they oppose the bill, but few expressed why they favored the measure.

Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls), who has been in a committed gay relationship for more than 22 years, said she had hoped to one day legally marry her partner in Minnesota while her parents could still attend. Her mother has passed away and now she is considering going to Iowa where gay marriage is legal so her 94-year-old father can bear witness.

Gottwalt defended the bill, saying current law does not allow same sex marriage, but that the issue is too important to allow judges or the Legislature the opportunity to change law alone if they felt inclined to do so. “There are people for and against from all walks of life and they should be allowed to vote on it.”

HF1615/ SF1308*/CH88

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