The Minnesota state legislature on Friday could green-light a ballot initiative that would ask voters to decide whether to adopt a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Marriage equality advocates are rallying again at the Minnesota state capitol in Saint Paul on Friday, urging the House of Representatives to vote against the possible 2012 ballot measure. Lawmakers have a Monday deadline to vote on the matter, barring a special legislative session.
On Wednesday, the state House Rules Committee voted to pass the amendment that Gov. Mark Dayton has vowed to fight "with every fiber of [his] being." But Dayton cannot veto the measure, one that has already passed the state senate. (For on-the-ground news of the Minnesota vote, read Andy Birkey's coverage at TheMinnesota Independenthere.)
"This is the critical hour and we cannot stop until the House of Representatives defeats this shameful proposal to discriminate against LGBT Minnesotans and their families," the state gay advocacy group OutFront Minnesota said in a Friday statement. "We do not know when the final debate and vote on the amendment will come in the House. Anti-LGBT lobby groups and legislators pushing the bill have been adept at keeping everyone in the dark about their plans for the vote and have been sowing misinformation."
Minnesota state law prohibits marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. But it's one of several states, including North Carolina, Wyoming, and Indiana, that does not have a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The prospect of an antigay ballot measure already appears unpopular with Minnesota state voters -- a sentiment representative of multiple national polls in recent weeks, including one released Friday, that indicate a majority support for marriage equality. According to a May 13 poll by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 55% of Minnesotans oppose the anti-gay marriage amendment.
The National Organization for Marriage, which has played a key opposition role to gay marriage in multiple states, has rallied for support of the Minnesota amendment, saying in a Thursday statement that "[g]ay marriage advocates are mounting a furious last-minute assault on Republican legislators in an effort to cow them into delaying the vote authorizing the marriage amendment until sometime next year."
NOM has had its sights on the Minnesota battle for some time. NOM president Brian Brown toldThe Advocate in November that the group would be pushing long-term for antigay constitutional amendments in states that do not have them -- including Iowa, where, in a unanimous decision in 2009, the state's supreme court struck down a law that prohibited gay marriage.
Three Iowa state supreme court justices have since been ousted by popular vote, aided by a $1 million campaign funded in part by out-of-state groups, including NOM.
"One of the primary effects of this victory is that -- I won't say it's made it easy, but it's made it very clear that a constitutional amendment should be before Iowa voters," Brown told The Advocate in November.