Minnesota governor willing to put gay marriage on back burner
June 05 2004 12:00 AM ET
The Minnesota legislature adjourned its regular session last month without reaching agreement on any major spending or borrowing bills. The sticking point has been the proposal that would allow voters to decide in November whether the state constitution should be amended to define marriage as a union of
one man and one woman. Such a definition already exists in state statute, but some say the constitution should be amended to make it more permanent.
Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty said that if he calls a special session, he would be willing to allow the gay marriage issue to fall to the bottom of the agenda. "I am not taking it off the table. We're not letting the issue go. We're not backing down from it," he said Friday on his weekly radio program. But, he said, if pushing the issue to the end of the special session agenda or even to next year would make it easier for senate Democrats to return to the capitol to address other issues, he would support doing that.
Senate Democratic leader Dean Johnson, however, predicted that it would be difficult for Republican leaders to control their members on a volatile issue like the gay marriage ban. "I said, 'Governor, what assurances can you give?' And he said, 'You just strategically bring up the bills,'" Johnson told The Star Tribune on Thursday. Pawlenty said that leaders might be able to set up parameters that would enable Democratic floor leaders to adjourn without a vote on the issue if they choose. "You can put the gay marriage issue in an order or a sequence to be taken after these other issues," he said.
Johnson wasn't convinced it would be so easy to control the session, and perhaps with good reason. Republican senator Michele Bachmann of Stillwater, the bill's sponsor, said Friday that she hadn't been asked not to bring the issue up and even if she were asked, she wouldn't agree to it. "I think the Democrats should be forewarned that there has been no agreement that has been made to allow them to get off the hook," she said. Sen. Mady Reiter, another strong supporter of the proposal, said she had urged Pawlenty not to call a special session. But if she's called back, the Shoreview Republican also said she wouldn't rule out bringing up the issue. "I believe it's the right of the voters," she said. Pawlenty concluded, "This issue is not going away."