Definition of marriage going to the voters

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Although Minnesotans don’t know who will be on the 2012 presidential ticket yet, they can be assured of one ballot question that will likely be a catalyst for high voter turnout.

The House passed the bill 70-62 to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot asking voters whether to define marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.” The Senate passed the bill 38-27 May 11.

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) HF1613/ SF1308* does not require gubernatorial approval before being placed on the ballot.

Opponents and proponents rallied at the Capitol for several days before and during the floor debate, chanting, singing and displaying signs with their views. When the House took up the bill shortly after 6 p.m., the activists gathered around television sets in the Capitol to watch the proceedings.

During a nearly five-hour debate inside the House Chamber, several legislators gave personal accounts of why they oppose the bill. Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls), who has been in a committed gay relationship for more than 22 years, said she had hoped to one day legally marry her partner in Minnesota while her parents could still attend. Her mother has passed away and now she is considering going to Iowa where gay marriage is legal so her 94-year-old father can bear witness. “Please don’t make me go off to Iowa,” she said.

Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove) is a veteran of the war in Iraq. “This amendment doesn’t  represent what I fought for,” he said. “If there was a hell no button here, that’s the one I would press,” he said.

Some members considered the amendment to be discriminatory. Rep. John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) talked about how he was bullied in school and discriminated against for jobs because of his physical disability. “I understand discrimination. I will never allow discrimination to the best of my ability ever again,” Ward said.

Members were reminded of the previous day when controversy ensued after Pastor Bradlee Dean of Old Path Church gave a divisive opening prayer. His presence and comments offended many on both sides of the aisle. “If we’d voted yesterday, this (bill) would have gone down,” said Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing).”If we vote this amendment on, we legitimize that individual.”

Gottwalt defended the bill saying current law does not allow same sex marriage. “This is current state law,” he said. “It’s not about whether I think it’s important. The people think it’s important.” He added that the issue is too important to allow judges or the Legislature to decide alone. “There are people for and against from all walks of life and they should be allowed to vote on it.”

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