Monday, May 09, 2011

Opposition to the Marriage Amendment Grows . . .

. . . and, as Andy Birkey documents,
in places you would not expect.

Andy Birkey (right) has a great article in the Minnesota Independent in which he rounds up the responses from editorial boards across the state to the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. It's an insightful and hopeful piece, and one that's reprinted in its entirety below.


‘Minnesota Malicious’: Papers Statewide
Pan GOP Anti–Gay Marriage Effort

No editorial boards have come out in support
of Republican plan

By Andy Birkey

Minnesota Independent
May 9, 2011

Newspapers throughout the state have come out against a Republican bill that proposes a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage in Minnesota. The geographic breadth of opposition to the amendment, from the larger Winona, Duluth and Minneapolis to the southern Minnesota farming communities of Albert Lea, New Ulm, Fairmont and tiny Grant County in Western Minnesota suggests it may be a liability for Republicans instead of the turnout machine of years past. On op-ed pages, editors have called the amendment “unnecessary,” “malicious” and a “waste of time” — with one paper even called out several GOP lawmakers as “chickens.” So far, no editorial boards at Minnesota newspaper have come out in support of the amendment.

Don’t Put Bigotry Up for a Vote” the Star Tribune urged in its weekend editorial: “In reality, enshrining this form of bigotry in the state’s premier governing document would be a step backward. Rather than reinforce an already discriminatory law, core values of equity and fairness should compel Minnesotans to repeal DOMA and extend marriage equity to all.”

In “Lawmakers Answering a Question No One is Asking,” the Winona Daily News had strong words for area legislators, calling them “spineless” for supporting the anti-gay marriage amendment:

Chicken. It’s not nice to call names, but what other word is there that describes it? Spineless? Pandering? Mean? Are those any better? Reps. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa and Greg Davids, R-Preston, as well as Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, are chickens. They’ve ducked any responsibility for terrible legislation and tried pinning it on the voters of Minnesota. The issue: Writing an amendment into the Minnesota Constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

It’s the second editorial the Winona paper has penned on the amendment. The first, “GOP Definition of Marriage is Hateful,” didn’t mince words:

The message the GOP is sending gays and lesbians could not be clearer. We like you (or are at least forced to say that for the cameras) — just not as much as straight people. This new movement isn’t just legislation to define marriage. It’s legislation to prove we’re bigoted. This isn’t Minnesota nice — it’s Minnesota malicious.

The Albert Lea Tribune, too, had sharp words for Republicans. From its piece entitled “Amendment is Just a Red Herring”:

Bringing up the proposal for amendment about same-sex marriage at this point in the legislative session is like someone pointing and saying, “Hey, look! Is that an airplane?” while they sneak your french fries.” You might have heard of such moves before. In high school and college classes for critical thinking and in political science, instructors define such distractive arguments as a “red herring tactic.”

The New Ulm Journal was a bit less critical, but warned the GOP about legislating through referendum in its editorial, “Beware of Casting Political Ideas in Stone.

“As we said earlier, constitutional amendments are serious business that should be used rarely. It shouldn’t be used to squash the political process and institutionalize one party’s political ideas,” the paper wrote.

In “Gay Marriage Issue is About Clashing Cultures,” the Fairmont Sentinel came out against putting a marriage amendment on the ballot:

What interest does the state of Minnesota — or any state — have in the commitments that consenting adults make to one another? The simple answer is: None. But things are a little more complicated than that, of course.

We raise this issue because Minnesota lawmakers are considering putting a gay marriage ban in front of voters in 2012. The ultimate question is: Should gays have their unions recognized by the state and be entitled to all the rights and privileges this implies? As of today, they are not.

The complicating aspect is state involvement. By democratizing the issue, we allow the traditions and beliefs of some citizens to deny state sanction to the hopes and desires of others.

The Iron Range’s Mesabi Daily News chastised the GOP for offering the amendment, but also hit the DFL for some bills the paper saw as a waste of time in its piece, “
Both Parties Should Get Down to Work on Budget.” The editorial board wrote:

DFL state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook is fed up with Republicans for their attempt to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2012 election ballot that would define marriage in Minnesota as only between a man and woman. He said it is a waste of valuable legislative time with four weeks left until the constitutionally-required end of the session on May 23. He correctly points out that work should be focused on how to bridge a $5 billion deficit for the next biennium that begins on July 1.

We couldn’t agree more.

But what Bakk does not include in his criticism of the GOP amendment proposal is that one of his own DFL Range colleagues, Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm, has also dived in to the constitutional amendment pool — or cesspool, pick your choice of words.

The Grant County Herald, a paper serving the county’s 6,000 residents near the South Dakota border, wrote, “The GOP is wasting time on marriage amendment” and called the measure divisive.

“Even though state law already defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, that is apparently not good enough for Republicans — not when they sense a golden opportunity to drive a wedge between Minnesotans with a divisive issue that will guarantee a huge conservative voter turnout in 2012,” the paper wrote. “A huge conservative voter turnout will, of course, help elect even more Republicans, who then, at last, will get to work on the other big problems facing Minnesota. Or so they promise.”

Another county newspaper, the Mille Lacs County Times serving the north central part of the state, said that “Republicans Are On a Rampage.”

“Now that they are in the majority, Republicans are hell-bent on passing legislation they never campaigned on. How often we hear that if I had known they were going to pass the ban on gay marriage, I wouldn’t have voted for them… And here we thought this was going to be a session about jobs and fixing the economy.”

The neighboring Mille Lacs Messenger suspects that efforts to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriage may backfire. The paper’s editor Brett Larson wrote, “Betting on Bigotry May Backfire This Time.”

“I know how I’ll be voting if the amendment makes it to the ballot, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Senator [David] Brown is shocked by the number of those who agree with me. In fact, Republicans may already be getting cold feet, as they’ve softened the language to potentially allow for civil unions,” wrote Larson. “I suppose Sen. Brown bases his opposition to gay marriage on the Bible, which says all kinds of things are wrong that we now accept (divorce, eating pork, calling your brother a fool) and right that we don’t (slavery, sexism, forced circumcision). If we really want to base law on the Bible, we’re gonna need a whole bunch of new amendments.”

The Duluth News Tribune, in “Let’s Please Get Back to What’s Important,” found the amendment to be a distraction:

Few precious days are left in Minnesota’s legislative session, with a budget gap still unfilled and still totaling in the billions of dollars. Yet some lawmakers in St. Paul are focusing on — gay marriage?

It’s not like any Minnesotan should have been surprised by an effort this year to put the gay-marriage issue in front of voters. Such efforts have failed in the past when Democrats had control of at least one of the legislative chambers. Republicans control both now, for the first time in 38 years, so expect the following question on your fall 2012 ballot: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

So let’s give these matters the blip of attention they deserve. But then let’s please get back to fixing the financial health of our state, to ending wars, to curbing out-of-control spending and to other truly serious matters.

The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Daily wrote, “GOP Agenda Needs Amending,” arguing that a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is bad for business.

“For a party that claims to have businesses’ backs, Republicans are presenting a potentially detrimental move,” the editors wrote. “While this was passed 8-4 on party lines by a Senate committee and is one step closer to showing up on the ballot in 2012, GOP lawmakers whose names will also be on the ballot should remember that oppressive and unfair actions like this will not be forgotten.”

The McLeod County Chronicle, southwest of the Twin Cities, said it supports the ban on same-sex marriages that currently exists, but they opposed putting that ban in the Minnesota Constitution in their editorial titled, “Use constitutional amendment process only when necessary.”

Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant may have stated it best last Sunday. “… statutes and rulings are whiteboards that can be erased. Constitutions are granite.”

First of all, we happen to agree with the Republicans’ intent. Gay marriage should not be on equal status with traditional marriage. We can live with statutes for same-sex arrangements to protect their legal rights, but we do not support stepping over that line.

We already have a same-sex marriage ban on the books. Republicans argue that “activist judges” have overturned state statutes on same-sex marriages in other states, and only a state constitutional amendment can stop such rulings.

While that may be true, there needs to be a lot more debate before the voters of this state go to the polls to make informed, not emotional, decisions. Let us do the debate first and see if the public actually wants that constitutional vote etched into granite.

– Andy Birkey
Minnesota Independent
May 9, 2011

To read comments on Andy's article, scroll to the bottom of this page.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
Winona Daily News Calls Proposed Marriage Amendment "Bigoted" and "Malicious"
Law Professor: Marriage Amendment is Divisive and Mean-Spirited
Rep. Steve Simon on Gay Marriage and the Arc of History
Disappointing, But Not Unexpected: "Marriage Amendment" Bill Passes MN Senate Judiciary Committee
Governor Mark Dayton to LGBT Advocates: "I Stand with You"
A Celebration of Faith and Family; A Call for Compassion and Fairness
Quote of the Day – November 4, 2010
A Message for NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy
Minnesotans Rally for Equality and Love
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to Minnesota's Constitution
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage

Recommended Off-site Links:
Most U.S. Catholics Back Civil Marriage for Gays – Lou Chibbaro Jr. (The Washington Blade, March 31, 2011).
Catholics More Supportive of Gay Rights Than General Public, Other Christians – Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter, March 22, 2011 – via The Progressive Catholic Voice).
U.S. Catholics Break with Church Hierarchy on Gay Relationships – Cathy Lynn Grossman (USA Today, March 23, 2011).
Banning Gay Marriage Would Institutionalize Injustice – Gary Boelhower (
Duluth News Tribune, May 1, 2011).

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