Outcome of Minnesota elections could impede same-sex marriage ban

BY admin

December 30 2005 12:00 AM ET

Opponents of
same-sex marriage concede that the outcome of two special
elections in Minnesota will make it harder for them to put a
measure on the November 2006 ballot that seeks to
amend the state constitution to ban gay unions.
Only the voters can amend the Minnesota
constitution, but both houses of the legislature must
vote first to put the measure on the ballot. The
Republican-controlled house has overwhelmingly voted twice
in the past two years to do just that, but the
proposal has been blocked in the Democrat-controlled senate.
Now voters in two special elections have chosen
new Democratic senators who oppose a ban on same-sex
marriage, and both of them are replacing Republicans
who favored the amendment. Supporters of the amendment have
blamed the senate majority leader, Dean Johnson, for
blocking a floor vote. He said Wednesday he expects
both sides will keep up the pressure this coming session.
"Will it come up? I'm sure the conservative
Republicans will push the issue, but it's less likely
that it finds its way to the ballot question in
November now than it did last session," Johnson said.
Johnson said he intends to hold a committee
hearing on the proposal, but the senate will focus
most of its time on issues like transportation,
education, and health care. He said Democrats Tarryl Clark
of St. Cloud and Terri Bonoff of Plymouth won their
recent special elections on those issues.

Minnesota already
has a statute that forbids same-sex marriage, but
social conservatives fear the courts could overturn the law,
so they want the voters to decide if the state
constitution should define marriage as the union
of one man and one woman. Sen. Michele Bachmann said
statewide polls show Minnesotans support an amendment to ban
marriage equality, and she'll continue to push for a
vote even though she's lost some support in the senate.
Senators who might have voted against the
amendment before might feel a bit more pressure now,
Bachmann said, because every member of the house and
senate is up for reelection next year. "It could be
difficult," she acknowledged. "I certainly admit that it
could be difficult to get it on the ballot, but the
dynamic that has changed is that now we're looking at
an election year and this is an issue that is
extremely popular with the voters."
Sen. Scott Dibble called the amendment
"mean-spirited" and discriminatory against same-sex
couples. He said same-sex couples should enjoy the
same health care, retirement, and legal benefits as married
straight couples.
Dibble, one of three openly gay legislators in
Minnesota, said he was pleased that the special
election results apparently will make it easier to
keep the measure off of the ballot. "Because the hysteria
and the fervor have died down and because this hasn't
worked for them electorally...perhaps we won't see as
much distraction in this upcoming legislative
session," Dibble said.
But Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota
Family Council, said his group will continue to lobby
the senate and that it will target senators in the
next election who oppose the amendment. He said there's
enough support to pass the measure on the floor if the
senate Democratic leadership allows for a straight
up-or-down vote.
"They'll have to decide if this empowers them,
but we think it's an issue that will not go away and
will keep coming back and there will be strong support
for it, and we think it will be an important issue in the
fall if it doesn't get on the ballot," Prichard said. (AP)

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