One of the fascinating things about the long history of the movement for marriage equality is the ability of people to change their minds–and hearts–about the definition of marriage, and for politicians to gain the courage to adopt love as the law.
In the DFL state auditor’s race, the Entenza campaign has ripped Rebecca Otto for 2004 vote related to marriage equality, while touting his own record as primo DFL values. As we noted last night in Say Anything: Keith Ellison backdates Minnesota’s first marriage equality bill, credits Matt Entenza, that latter construct has been overstated a bit.
We’ll get back to more on the the latter in a bit, but think that it’s worthwhile to review Otto’s own record, and there’s no better place to begin than Andy Birkey’s Column post from June 5, Entenza attacks Otto on marriage equality in Auditor race.
“She voted with Republicans to place a ban on marriage equality on the ballot,” Entenza said, according to Minnpost.
What Entenza said is true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Otto represented a swing district close to one held by a then state senator Michele Bachmann who was pushing the amendment. According to the Wall Street Journal at the time, it’s a vote she appeared to regret almost immediately:
“I can’t believe you came to our fundraiser and said, ‘I’m on your side,’ ” chided Nadean Bishop, a lesbian and retired Baptist pastor, who carried with her a framed photograph of her wedding-like “Holy Union” celebration. At one point in the half-hour session, Ms. Otto teared up and asked for a tissue. “My vote would not have changed yesterday’s results,” Ms. Otto said, her eyes darting among her guests. “I need you to understand that.”
During the meeting, Ms. Otto suggested her vote didn’t necessarily mean she opposed gay marriage. All she wanted was a statewide debate on the matter, she told the group.
Like a majority of Americans, Otto had a change of heart, putting her up there with DFL heroes such as the late-James Oberstar and Paul Wellstone, both of whom vote for the Defense of Marriage Act while in Congress. . . .
Since then Otto says she has not only regretted that vote but has lent her name to the cause of marriage equality.
In 2012, Otto toured with the “Vote No” campaign against the amendment.
In 2013, she stood with marriage equality supporters while the state Senate debated legislation. . . .
Read the rest at The Column, which bills itself as a venue “Telling the stories of LGBT Minnesotans, one voice at a time.”
This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Bluestem Prairie. Check out the links below for other recent Bluestem Prairie stories:
Gotcha politics over job performance: Matt Entenza’s pro DOMA vote
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Did Matt Entenza ever sacrifice DFL values in a vote? Apparently so.
It’s a tedious tale of the legislative history of HF 925, an omnibus bill related to child support, custody, and visitation that Matt Entenza introduced in 1997, but here’s the short skinny about how Matt Entenza came to vote for DOMA language that had been inserted in a bill he authored.
The original language as introduced was quite short, but during its first stop, at the House Judiciary Committee, it picked up additional changes including this DOMA-style language under prohibited marriages:
161.1 (4) a marriage between persons of the same sex. 161.2 (b) A marriage entered into by persons of the same sex, 161.3 either under common law or statute, that is recognized by 161.4 another state or foreign jurisdiction is void in this state and 161.5 contractual rights granted by virtue of the marriage or its 161.6 termination are unenforceable in this state. A same-sex 161.7 relationship may not be recognized by this state as being 161.8 entitled to the benefits of marriage.
From that point, the bill moved through committee, until May 2, 1997, when it was referred to the Chief Clerk for comparison with its companion bill, S.F. 830, which did not contain the DOMA language; Entenza made the motion, which was adopted.
The House substituted SF on May 5, but there’s more to the story in the Journal of the House. On May 15, 1997, Entenza offered a “delete all” amendment on the floor to substitute the second engrossment of his bill, HF925, for the senate bill. It’s not an uncommon tactic to make sure a bill goes to a conference committee, where the horsetrading begins, but the maneuver placed the DOMA language back in contention.
It’s in the Journal of the House for May 15, 1997, on page 4401:
517.03 [PROHIBITED MARRIAGES.]
Subdivision 1. [GENERAL.] (a) The following marriages are prohibited:
(a) (1) a marriage entered into before the dissolution of an earlier marriage of one of the parties becomes final, as provided in section 518.145 or by the law of the jurisdiction where the dissolution was granted;
(b) (2) a marriage between an ancestor and a descendant, or between a brother and a sister, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption;
(c) (3) a marriage between an uncle and a niece, between an aunt and a nephew, or between first cousins, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood, except as to marriages permitted by the established customs of aboriginal cultures; provided, however, that and
(4) a marriage between persons of the same sex.
(b) A marriage entered into by persons of the same sex, either under common law or statute, that is recognized by another state or foreign jurisdiction is void in this state and contractual rights granted by virtue of the marriage or its termination are unenforceable in this state. A same-sex relationship may not be recognized by this state as being entitled to the benefits of marriage.
Entenza’s motion for substitution passed on a voice vote (see p. 4403) and no effort was made to remove the DOMA language. It was stripped by the conference committee.
Thus, Matt Entenza may once voted for DOMA language, added to a bill he authored, unless of course, he remained silent in the voice vote for his own amendment. Hair splitting? Gotcha? Certainly–but Bluestem’s exercise in gotcha and Birkey’s review of Otto’s record on equality illustrates why the combative Matt style has so ill served Mr. Entenza as he’s tried to launch himself into higher office , as MinnPost’s ever-excellent Brian Bierschbach illustrates in today’s hot-off-the-pixels No love lost: how the Otto-Entenza race has become the most contentious campaign in Minnesota.
Once Minnesotans united for all families, but now Entenza opens old divisions
The final two stages in Minnesota’s movement for marriage equality were not achieved by combat, but rather a strategy reinforced by the title of the umbrella organization that united so many Minnesotans in the campaign to defeat the marriage amendment in 2012–the first time in the country that this had been accomplished–and the subsequent victory for marriage equality in 2013.
Minnesotas United for All Families did that indeed, uniting Minnesotans, inviting them to assert their core values of humanity, equality, and neighborliness. It was a campaign of name-calling or finger-pointing, but one that asked straights to look into our LGBT neighbors’ faces and see them as equal to our own hearts. Otto, who had regretted her 2004 vote by doing public penance for it in her re-election bid (which she lost in part because of that penance) was one of the Minnesotans who united, as was Matt Entenza.
And as Birkey noted, Otto shares that regret with DFL values icons Paul Wellstone and Jim Oberstar. She also shares the 2004 “Yes” vote with a number of DFLers still serving who in their turn changed their hearts and voted to make love the law in 2013: David Dill, Kent Eken (now in the Minnesota Senate), Ann Lenczewski, Paul Marquart and Gene Pelowski.
Nor has Bernie Lieder’s 2004 “bad” vote stopped Entenza from campaigning in the Crookston area with the retired legislator. But Entenza has the knives out now, and Otto is to be punished for that vote (or perhaps because she’s merely in the way of twice-thwarted ambition).
Entenza is also trying to chip away at Otto’s support in two key parts of the DFL base — progressives and Iron Range laborers. The latter are in the midst of a battle over the nonferrous mining project PolyMet, which Rangers say will create jobs but environmentalists say could damage the area’s rivers and lakes for hundreds of years to come. Otto drew the ire of Iron Range Democrats last fall when she used her position on the state’s executive council to vote against approval of a handful of mining leases. She then sent out a fundraising solicitation noting her vote. . . .
At the same time, Entenza is also trying to attack Otto’s progressive credentials, noting her vote in favor of photo identification-type legislation and an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment during her brief stint as a state legislator in 2003 and 2004.
“His pathway to victory is very narrow and very complicated,” DFL operative Darin Broton, who works with the Tunheim consulting firm, said of Entenza’s strategy. “How many voters does that actually get him? No one has a clear sense.”
Bluestem doesn’t find our progressive friends responding favorably to the attacks; rather, they’re being reminded of why they got annoyed with Entenza in 2006 and 2010. Bierschbach interviewed our friend CD7 DFL chair, Nancy Larson, who’s pro-mining:
But activists say the way Entenza went about challenging Otto this time is different. He filed with little warning and time to spare instead of being open about his intentions. His history of hard-knuckled campaigning also doesn’t help.
DFL activist Nancy Larson is supporting Otto and ran for state auditor once herself. “It’s a race where you generally get no attention,” she said. “I don’t think this is going to be something that will just slip away…if he wins we will do what we can to get him elected, but it’s going to be hard and people will still have a bad taste in their mouth.”
Next up in our auditor primary series: Has the role of the state auditor really slipped in the public’s eye?
Cartoon at top: Ken Avidor’s view of Entenza’s attacks on Otto.