Anti-gay marriage amendment lives on in Minnesota House
A constitutional amendment that would bar gays and lesbians from marrying in Minnesota passed the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday night after brief testimony. The bill now heads to the House Rules Committee and then a House floor vote. A companion bill in the Senate is awaiting a hearing on Friday in the Senate Rules Committee, which has the power to send that bill to the Senate floor. The process of getting the bill on the ballot could be complete as early as Monday.
Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr., DFL-Crystal, “We have a $5 billion dollar problem, and here we are taking up constitutional amendments that can’t even be voted on until 2012,” he said. “This is a fiscal committee that is burning up a lot of time.”
He added that if the amendment is passed by the voters “it becomes the highest law in the state, and it would be a proposal to restrict rights. You are reversing the history of both our [state and federal] constitutions.”
Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, defended his decision to propose a marriage amendment during a budget year.
“It’s clear we are focused like a laser beam on the budget,” he said. “We are focused on that as a top priority. We inherited a $5 billion overspending problem.”
Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, found the idea of a constitutional amendment that discriminates against one group of people misguided.
“I go to a church that performs marriages for one man and one woman, one woman and one woman, and one man and one man. It looks like your constitutional amendment is interfering with my church,” she said. “You are interfering with many congregations in this state, ones like mine that are open and affirming. How can you do that?”
Gottwalt again defended himself. “I’m not doing anything but putting the question to the voters. Over 70 percent of Minnesotans say they want to vote on this.”
Despite protestations by DFLers, the committee quickly passed the bill by a voice vote along party lines. As it passed, a ruckus developed in the committee room. Someone shouted, “Civil rights should not be voted on!” and the crowd roared in approval for so long that the committee chair Rep. Mary Liz Holberg had to put the committee in recess until the Sergeant-at-Arms could clear people from the hearing room.