Reaction to the passage of a Republican anti–gay marriage amendment in the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday was swift. “They have made a grave, grave mistake, and I think they will see that soon,” Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the only member of the LGBT community in the Senate. The bill’s author, Maple Grove Republican Warren Limmer, dodged questions by Dibble and reporters about whether he thinks same-sex marriage is immoral and whether the measure was really about morality. Though he didn’t answer, Limmer has made his opposition to homosexuality very clear in his 20 years in office.
Dibble chastised Republicans who seemed shy to speak on the Senate floor in support of the amendment. During three hours of debate, only Limmer and Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, spoke in favor of the amendment.
“I think they are ashamed of themselves. I think they know they are wrong,” Dibble told reporters after the vote. “I think the order from their operatives and party handlers was, ‘Be quiet, because what we are doing is not where Minnesotans are at.’ They are responding to the pressure of a very vocal minority.”
One reporter mentioned Dibble’s charge that GOP members are ashamed of their position and asked, “Do you believe gay marriage is morally wrong?”
Limmer refused to answer. “It’s up to the public to make a direction and advice to the Legislature and state government.
He added, “I’m sorry that Sen. Dibble thinks that way.”
Reporters weren’t content with that answer. “Is there, for you, a personal moral consideration in carrying this bill?”
Again Limmer dodged. “The purpose of this is for the public to decide. I’ve been around this issue, studied it. I’ve carried it for years.”
He said it was important for the people, not judges, to make decisions on who can marry.
But despite Limmer’s shyness about discussing his personal motivations for authoring the anti–gay marriage amendment, in years past he’s been a vociferous opponent of LGBT rights. In 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court stuck down sodomy laws, which were historically used to jail gays and lesbians even for simply gathering in bars, Limmer was outraged.
“I think the decision reflects a continued downward spiral away from traditional values that have created a strong foundation for families,” he told the Star Tribune.
That same year Limmer sponsored a bill that would remove protections for gays and lesbians from the Minnesota Human Rights Act. That measure prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbian in employment and housing.
During a committee hearing on his bill, Limmer questioned OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBT equality group.
“Is it your organization’s desire to continue promoting this style of sex education and lifestyle in the public schools?” He asked. “Parents are fearful of the introduction of this particular lifestyle as a threat to their children’s health. That lifestyle is contrary to what they feel is the correct value system to teach their children. What happens if sex orientation as a protected class is taught to a 9-year old student? When does a parent have the opportunity to say that’s not right?”
He offered his view on civil rights based on sexual orientation versus those based on race. “Sexual orientation may be perceived as more of action,” he told the committee. “Do you teach a person to be black?”
Limmer has sponsored or cosponsored the anti–gay marriage amendment each time it has been brought up, and with the exception of this year, the amendment language has barred civil unions and domestic partnerships as well as same-sex marriage.
He was also the lead opponent of domestic partner benefits for state employees under the Ventura administration. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura had pushed for such benefits. Limmer was a major player in getting those benefits revoked.