Opponents say GOP gay marriage amendment distracts from economy

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Business leaders, Democrats and LGBT groups are unified in one aspect of their opposition to a Republican Senate bill that would but a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the ballot in 2012: Gay marriage is a distraction from Minnesota’s economic needs.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, in a statement released in response to the bill introduced Tuesday, blasted the GOP for not spending more time fixing Minnesota’s budget.

“With only four weeks to go to balance the budget, this is not the time to launch an effort to amend the state constitution to further divide Minnesotans from one another,” he said. “Instead of focusing on gay marriage, Senator [Warren] Limmer should get to work on the Public Safety budget that he’s responsible for. Engaging in delays and distractions is unacceptable.”

“The clock is ticking,” he added. “Minnesotans are waiting for an honest, responsible GOP budget.”

Charlie Zelle, CEO of Jefferson Bus Lines and chair of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, criticized the push for the amendment.

“In so many ways, this constitutional amendment is bad for Minnesota employers and a distraction from the real priority for the state: growing the economy,” he said in a statement. “Instead, we need to move Minnesota forward by pursuing policies that are good for business, good for all Minnesota families and will make our state stronger and more competitive.”

He added, “Minnesota’s CEOs and small business owners alike need state lawmakers to stay focused on placing Minnesota’s economy and business environment back on track. A constitutional amendment against full inclusion is not only a distraction but would create a significant setback for Minnesota businesses.”

Ann Kaner-Roth, executive director of Project 515, said that research demonstrates that communities inclusive of gay and lesbian couples often perform better economically.

“The proposed amendment is anti-jobs, anti-business and anti-family,” she said, “A wealth of research finds that inclusion strengthens the economy and Minnesota employers know it. That’s why they are leading the way by implementing inclusive policies in the workplace. We hope state leaders will remember that equality is an advantage.”

Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, agreed with that assessment.

“Even though the Legislature has critical budgetary issues that need to be addressed, they are taking valuable time to introduce a constitutional amendment that would discriminate against Minnesotans,” she said. “This is completely counter to the direction public opinion is moving. Plus, this constitutional amendment is redundant. Minnesota already has a law in place defining marriage. This proposal takes our state in the wrong direction and tarnishes our constitution with discrimination that Minnesotans don’t support.”

Project 515 and OutFront Minnesota offered evidence to back up their claims.

“Employers with engaged workers have 2.6 times more earnings per share growth and twice the annual net income compared to other companies and inclusive policies are among the strongest indicators of engagement,” according to research by Gallup and the Kenexa Research Institute. The groups also cited studies showing that cities that are more inclusive attract more talented workers, especially in the technology fields.

According to MinnPost, before the announcement, Gov. Mark Dayton said: “I strongly oppose a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage. It [a prohibition] already exists in state law.”

DFL chair Ken Martin sent a passionate appeal to party member in an email Tuesday evening.

It’s official. Today, Republicans in the legislature officially introduced their constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage and write discrimination into our state constitution.

Our fight starts now.

Throughout history, our party has always stood up for equality and fairness. And now we need to mount a strong offense to ensure that the Republicans are not able to turn back the clock on equal rights.

But this fight is not just about fairness and equality.

It’s about our belief that every person in Minnesota should have the ability to marry the person they love. It’s about our belief that government should not sanction discrimination. It’s about creating a culture of respect in society so that every child will be safe at school and have a healthy, respectful learning environment free of harassment and violence.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Family Council, a conservative religious organization that opposes LGBT rights, asked its members to contact their legislators in support of the amendment.

“After seven years, a bill to allow the people of Minnesota to vote on marriage has been introduced in the state Senate. This is fantastic news, but we need you to email your State Senator and tell him or her to pass the marriage amendment bill and put it on the ballot for the people to vote,” the group said. “Remind them that the right to vote is our most important civil right and that this is an issue for the people to decide themselves.”

MFC added, “Legislators are not being asked to decide if marriage is the union of a man and a woman. They are being asked to let the people decide this issue. Demand that House leadership introduce and pass the marriage amendment today.”