Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New marriage MN constitutional amendment push coming

Despite three failed attempts in recent years, Minnesota opponents of same-sex marriage are launching a new attempt to ban it by way of an amendment to the state Constitution.

The proposed amendment, which will be sponsored by several legislators, would give voters the opportunity to define marriage in Minnesota as between a man and a woman only.

The Minnesota Family Council, legislators and representatives of several religious groups introduced their plans at a news conference at the State Capitol this morning.

"This is not a political issue, or an issue of choice or rights. It is an issue of life," said Andre Dukes, pastor of Shiloh Temple in Minneapolis.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the amendment is a response to several bills that would make marriage gender-neutral, as well as an expected lawsuit by a gay couple who were refused the right to marry in Hennepin County.

"Not only is this an assault on the traditional definition of marriage, this is an assault on all religious beliefs in the state of Minnesota," Limmer said.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said the amendment evinces "unfamily values" and stands no chance of passing in either the House or the Senate. He said public opinion on the issue is changing so rapidly in Minnesota that a bill legalizing same-sex marriage could pass in three or four years.

Three times earlier this decade, same-sex marriage opponents tried and failed to push a similar proposed amendment through the Legislature. Those efforts died after reaching the legislative hearing stage.

Although prospects for passage in the DFL-dominated Legislature would appear dim, Family Council President Tom Prichard said this morning, "We still feel the issue needs to be raised this year."

And even though passing an amendment is an uphill battle, "and I'm pretty sure [DFL leaders] won't welcome this, we don't see this as a one-year deal," Prichard said.

State law has defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman since 1997, a year after the federal "Defense of Marriage Act," forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for the purpose of federal benefits such as Social Security. Opponents of same-sex marriage have called for a constitutional amendment because a law could be overturned in court. Star Tribune

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