NOM fires first salvo In Minnesota same-sex marriage battle


This morning, the National Organization for Marriage, a chief organizer of Proposition 8 in California and Question 1 in Maine, fired its first salvo in what may turn into its next high-profile assault on the Minnesota LGBT community. The organization launched a round of television advertising in Minnesota, telling supporters “when [politicians] ask for your support [in the 2010 elections], ask them if they’ll guarantee your right to vote on marriage.” 

The ad also features video from State Senator John Marty’s appearance before a senate committee hearing on same-gender marriage legislation earlier this year, where he expressed his hope that same-gender marriage would be legalized next year after Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty is out of office.

The ad is playing in every media market in the state, according to NOM’s new President Brian Brown.

A visit by Maggie Gallagher, who’d just stepped down as head of NOM, to the St Paul campus of the University of St Thomas was seen in some corners as a prelude to a larger battle over marriage equality – starting to rally activists and hard-core supporters, and working with the Catholic Church to build a network in Minnesota to support a drive for a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage.

Because Minnesota does not have a referendum process, any attempt to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage in 2011 would have to pass through the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, both of which are held by the DFL.

Amy Johnson, Executive Director of OutFront, says her organization is ready for the battle. “Certainly, Minnesota is one of the last battlegrounds,” she said in an interview today, where the marriage issue has not been settled with court decisions or state constitutional amendments.

Johnson was upbeat on the prospects for same-gender marriage in next year’s legislative session, though, calling it “imminent…if we get a good governor [in the 2010 election], and if we keep a hold of a few seats in the House, we will see equality in 2011.”

However, Johnson said that OutFront has yet to compile a list of candidates who might be at risk of loosing their seats to a challenge from an anti-marriage opponent. Some legislators, she said, won by very narrow margins in the last election, and would be of particular concern to their lobbying efforts.

A poll of 2009 State Fairgoers showed that a large majority of Minnesotans supported marriage equality.

In separate statements made to today, DFL gubernatorial hopefuls Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton were bullish in their support for marriage equality, and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher also promised support. As of this writing, GOP candidate House Minority Leader Tom Emmer had not replied to phone calls requesting comment.

Matt Entenza:

“Marriage is an issue of equality and human rights – and if NOM wants to label that a “special interest,” fine. Minnesotans know that the actual special interests we’re fighting against are corrupt banks who have taken advantage of our trust and those who profit from the politics of division.

“Groups like NOM, pushing their agenda, would do well to remember that once upon a time we didn’t allow people of different races to marry, either. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Mark Dayton:

“The mis-named “National Organization for Marriage” should take their bigoted ad campaign elsewhere. Minnesotans are too fair-minded to be fooled by their attempts to promote bigotry and prejudice in our state.

I believe the founding principle of our nation, as expressed in our Declaration of Independence is “All men (and women) are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I believe this should include everyone’s right to marry legally the person he or she loves.”

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, via a press secretary:

“She wants to ensure that every person in Minnesota is treated with dignity, respect, and equality, and this means standing up to protect the rights of all Minnesotans regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. As Governor, she will work to ensure the right to marriage equality for all Minnesotans.”