Minnesota lawmakers consider marriage amendment
January 30 2004 12:00 AM ET
Minnesota legislators are considering asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, even though a 1997 law outlaws gay marriage and prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The amendment would prevent any future legislature from legalizing same-sex marriage, even if an overwhelming majority wanted to do so.
"Marriage is the linchpin of society," said state senator Michele Bachmann, who is leading the fight for the constitutional amendment. "If we are to pull out the linchpin...can we truly expect that society will remain coherent and strong?"
Sen. Scott Dibble, an openly gay legislator who hopes to defeat Bachmann's plan, said, "This would be the first time that we would amend the state constitution for a discriminatory, prejudiced purpose. That is something that legislators of good faith have a real problem with."
Since the 1993 passage of a bill outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation--a bill that Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, supported when he was a member of the legislature--the movement has been in the opposite direction, according to the Pioneer Press. In 1997 the legislature joined a national trend and overwhelmingly approved the Defense of Marriage Act, which put same-sex marriages in the same illegal category as bigamy and marriages between siblings. Gov. Jesse Ventura's decision to extend health insurance and other benefits to same-sex partners of state employees--"Love is bigger than government,'' Ventura liked to say--was overturned by the legislature.
In November, following the Massachusetts supreme judicial court decision that the same-sex marriage ban in that state is unconstitutional, Bachmann and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) announced their plan to carve the same-sex marriage ban into the Minnesota constitution so that state judges could never rule on the fairness of the ban. If approved by the legislature this year, the amendment would go to voters in November, who would ultimately make the decision.
"We fully expect radical gay activists from Minnesota will fly to Massachusetts, get married, return, and sue to have their marriage declared valid," Bachmann told the newspaper. "And four judges could decide whether marriage would be legal in Minnesota." She was referring to a majority of the seven-member Minnesota supreme court. "The courts for 30 years have increasingly turned nearly every issue into what they term a constitutional issue, thus becoming an imperial judiciary not unlike the seers on Mount Olympus,'' she added.
The city of Minneapolis allows same-sex domestic partners to register their relationships. Gay rights activists say the registry is largely symbolic but that it may help in securing benefits from private businesses and conferring such rights as making a partner's health care decisions. Currently, 738 couples are registered under the program.