The definition of marriage in Minnesota could come down to your vote.
Last week, Minnesota lawmakers moved the state closer to a ban on same-sex marriage.
With a 38-27 vote, the Senate approved a bill authored by State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-District 36) of Lakeville, that would amend the state's Constitution and redefine marriage as the “union of one man and one woman." If the House approves the bill, voters will decide in the 2012 general election who has the right to marry whom. The Republican-led House is expected to vote on the topic this week.
So far, debate on the issue has been heated.
State Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-District 60) Minneapolis, who is openly gay, spoke passionately about the proposed amendment after the Senate vote.
“I can tell you that this is not the future that Minnesota wants for itself. This is not the future of the Republican Party, and they have made a grave, grave mistake. And I think they’re going to discover that very soon,” he said
“It’s a very shameful day for Minnesota,” Dibble continued.
Thompson, Lakeville's freshman Senator who is also Assistant Majority Leader, argued that conventional couples provide more nurturing environments for children than do same-sex spouses. He also asserted that marriage between a man and a woman was simply more natural.
“As a matter of fact and history, and I guess nature, it has always been that. Not to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman is inconsistent with the essence of the institution,” he told another Patch in an interview.
Thompson also argued for the legitimacy of a popular referendum on gay marriage.
“I think that how we define the most basic institution that we have in a society is a legitimate question to put to the people,” he said.
But Wendy Krauser, a Lakeville resident, said the bill is not only shameful, but is designed to manipulate people into voting to change the constitution.
"People aren't going to understand that a no vote is a vote to keep things status quo," she said. "I'm a lesbian and as it stands now, I can't marry my partner in Minnesota. All this bill threatens to do is make it nearly impossible to allow such marriages in the future."
Leaders nearby seem to support the bill, too. Northfield's State Senator Al DeKruif (R-District 25) Madison Lake, agreed that the definition of marriage should be determined through a statewide vote.
“We want the folks to decide,” he said.
Jaclyn Bovee, a junior that works at the school’s Gender and Sexuality Center, rejected DeKruif's line of reasoning.
“Marriage is civil right that everyone should be allowed to have access to, and I don’t think that civil rights should be up for a vote,” she said.
In the event of the amendment’s passage and ratification, for example, homosexual couples would be constitutionally ineligible for the tax benefits that come with state-sanctioned marriage.
“There are practical rights that come with marriage that everyone should have access to, regardless of who they’re in love with—there are social rights that come with marriage and there’s a social stigma that comes with not [being married]," Bovee said. "Everyone should have access to the social capital that comes with marriage regardless of who they love."
In response to the proposed change, the DFL has introduced the “Marriage and Family Protection Act,” which would define marriage as between "two persons" instead of "a man and a woman."