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Minnesota GOP introduces amendment to ban gay marriage

Gay-pride_763.png
Gay-pride_763.png

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate introduced three bills on Tuesday that aim to put a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage before voters in 2012. Minnesota law already outlaws same-sex marriage. State Democrats say the bill is a distraction from the economic crisis — and a state budget that the GOP has yet to pass.

Maple Grove Republican Sen. Warren Limmer, the measure’s chief author, said the bill was not about putting forth an issue that’d boost voter turnout for the GOP in 2012. “Quite honestly, it could cut both ways,” he said at a press conference. “We believe we owe the public the opportunity to be engaged.”

When asked about the timing of the bill and if he thought there would be a backlash, he said, “Personally I don’t think there’s going to be that much backlash on this. We want to give the public as much time as possible to consider it.”

The bill will be fast-tracked to meet Friday’s committee deadline for bills, Limmer said, and it will receive a hearing this week.

Sen. Paul Gazelka of Brainerd was questioned by reporters about whether his district is open to such an amendment considering he defeated the state’s only gay Republican, former Sen. Paul Koering, in the 2010 primary.

“The district, which I think reflects the state, wants gays and lesbians to live how they choose, but doesn’t want to redefine marriage,” he said.

Since the bill is a ballot initiative, it will bypass Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto pen should it pass both chambers of the Legislature, which — since both bodies are controlled by Republicans — it seems likely to do.

The ballot question would read, “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

DFLers called the amendment push a distraction.

“It’s disturbing that Republicans want to use one of the last weeks of the legislative session to marginalize one group of people and divide our state,” Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis said. “We are facing a $5 billion budget shortfall, yet Republicans believe the biggest threat to our state’s welfare is who is allowed to be married.”

He added, “For same-sex couples, marriage is about economics; it’s about allowing families to take responsibility for each other and support their loved ones, creating strong households throughout our state. For this reason, there is significant evidence that the states that do the best economically are the ones that embrace diversity, not shut it out.”

“With this amendment, we are taking Minnesota in exactly the opposite direction of where we should be headed – toward a stronger economy that welcomes the contributions of all people,” he said.

Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook said, “Prior to the Easter recess, I told the Republican leadership when we got back there would be four weeks left to the session,” said Bakk. ” I don’t know if they don’t understand the budget challenges they face. It is time to get to work on these budget bills. These policy type issues can wait until next year.”

“When we reach May 23 with no budget deal, I will say to them, ‘I told you back in April, I told you to start focusing on the budget every day,’” he added.

Dibble said he expects that the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church to step in and spend tens of millions of dollars on a campaign to pass the amendment.

“The archbishop is probably going to try and raise millions of dollars on this,” he said. “We already saw his DVD campaign last year.”

In addition to Limmer and Gazelka, the bill was introduced by Sens. David Hann of Eden Prairie, Benjamin Kruse of Brooklyn Park, David Brown of Becker, Mike Parry of Waseca, Dave Thompson of Lakeville, Sean Nienow of Cambridge, Dan Hall of Burnsville, Pam Wolf of Spring Lake Park, Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas and Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria.

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