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Professor debates NOM founder on Minnesota marriage amendment

Both sides of the debate over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage met at the University of St. Thomas Law School on Thursday afternoon.

Before a packed room, Dale Carpenter laid out the reasons the ballot measure should be defeated and why rights for same-sex couples matter, while Maggie Gallagher provided arguments for why same-sex marriage should remain illegal in Minnesota through a constitutional amendment.

At the beginning of her talk, Gallagher, who is the head of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and a founder of the National Organization for Marriage, polled the audience on their position on the amendment. About 90 percent of the students and members of the public raised their hand when she asked if they opposed the amendment.

Both debaters argued the importance of marriage and it’s stabilizing effects on families. Gallagher argued that same-sex marriage would redefine marriage and further erode the institution.

Gallagher’s reasoning stemmed from the belief that children need both a mother and father.

“There is something special about public sexual unions of male and female in which the man and the woman make explicit commitments that are socially supported and not just privately and personally supported to the children they make,” she said. “Children should have have a father as well as a mother,” she said. “Almost not other couple provides that.”

Carpenter, who is a professor of civil rights and sexual orientation law at the University of Minnesota, argued that expanding marriage to same-sex couples would not impact opposite-sex couples except possibly in positive ways.

“I can tell you every child already has a mother and father, and same-sex marriage isn’t going to change that,” he said. “Marriage for same-sex couples does not take away one single child from opposite-sex couples who want to raise that child and who are fit to raise that child.”

Carpenter said people get married because they want to commit to one another.

“Allowing 3 percent of the population to marry would not undermine marriage for the remaining 97 percent,” he said. “On the contrary, same-sex marriage sends the message to all married couples, if it send any message at all, that family structure does matter.”

The debaters were asked questions by the audience as well. Among the topics discussed were religious liberty, protections for same-sex couples, and why the Catholic church is invested in the issue in the first place.

Minnesotans will vote on the constitutional amendment in November 2012.

Here’s full audio of the debate.

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