Gay marriage hits close to home, but Minnesotans not ready

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by Andy Birkey | 5/6/09 • While Minnesotans may say they’re not ready to extend full equality to same-sex couples, subtle changes abound as gay Minnesotans travel to Iowa to marry and Lutherans look to relax restrictions on churches that want to be inclusive.

And while the religious right is working hard to convince Minnesotans that a proposed Constitutional amendment is needed, a new Star Tribune poll shows support for that option waning.

Young people showed the most support for same-sex marriage, with 38 percent backing it. Older Minnesotans resoundingly opposed gay nuptials with just 12 percent support. Overall, 25 percent of Minnesotans support same-sex marriage, 33 percent want it prohibited by amendment, and a plurality, 35 percent, say that the Minnesota Supreme Court should decide the issue, much like Iowa.

“I think the situation in Iowa points to the urgency of what needs to be done here in Minnesota,” Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council told KARE-11. “The people need to be aware that marriage is under threat in Minnesota from possibly the courts or the legislature.”

Prichard’s group wants to pass a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

The question asked in the latest Star Tribune poll isn’t the same it posed in 2004, when 58 percent of Minnesotans said they wanted a constitutional amendment. The Family Council believes that the 25-percent drop in support for an amendment is due to poll bias because the 2009 poll also asks if respondents if they would prefer the Minnesota Supreme Court handle the issue.

“The Star Tribune has a reputation for poll results biased against conservative political candidates,” wrote Prichard. “This poll suggests the same is true regarding issues like homosexual marriage.”

Gays and lesbians still have no relationship rights in Minnesota, but for those who want to celebrate their commitment and at least have one state recognize their partnership, Iowa is only hours away. And many are taking the trip.

A group of 10 couples from Minneapolis’ All God’s Children Church traveled to Davenport, Iowa, last weekend to marry. One such pair was Fay and Julianne King.

“There are a lot of people who suffered a great deal before us to get us to this point,” Fay told KARE 11. “I’m doing this in their honor and I’m also doing it for the future.”

Another group of churches has decided to affirm same-sex relationships in their congregations, even if the marriages themselves are not yet legal.

The Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America passed a resolution last weekend paving the way for member churches to perform same-sex marriages.

“I want to say we have turned the corner, but it’s probably more accurate to say we are turning the corner,” the Rev. Bruce Benson of the St. Olaf Student Congregation in Northfield, Minn., said.

Minnesota’s gay and lesbian couples are anxiously awaiting Minnesota to turn that corner. Five states now have legalized same-sex marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and, as of Wednesday, Maine.

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