The Minnesota Senate will vote Wednesday to put same-sex marriage on the ballot next year. The proposed constitutional amendment would define marriage as between one man and one woman. State law already bans same-sex marriage, but Republicans who control the Legislature fear courts could overturn the law without additional constitutional protection.
A House vote has not yet been scheduled, but the bill is expected to win approval in both houses of the Legislature. That would place the question before voters in the 2012 general election. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton does not have the authority to veto a proposed constitutional amendment.
Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, and Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, debated the issue as part of the Minnesota Public Radio News series One on One.
SHOULD WE ALLOW SAME-SEX COUPLES TO GET MARRIED?
Rep. Steve Gottwalt: "This is not about hate, this is not about judgment, but it is about defining marriage. The question isn't can't they, or wouldn't they, or what harm would there be to others, it's about defining the term, and wanting to have the conversation with Minnesotans about what that means."
Rep. Steve Simon: "There is no one I know of, who is either not getting married or is getting divorced because gay people in five states in the United States have the right to marry one another."
IS LIMITING MARRIAGE TO HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES AN APPROPRIATE USE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCESS?
Gottwalt: "The problem we're trying to address is activist judges and politicians making the decisions. There are appeals in courts right now, and attempts by legislators, right now, to change the definition of marriage. We want Minnesotans to have an opportunity to discuss this and then vote and make the decision about whether this should be more permanently placed in Minnesota's constitution."
Simon: "We certainly shouldn't ever put people's basic human and civil rights up for a vote. One hundred and twenty years ago there's no question in my mind that if you would have put a lot of things to the voters, they would have made some very bad decisions. They might have outlawed the Catholic Church. They might have said that whites and blacks can't marry. I'm not convinced by the argument that you ought to just American Idol-style throw it to the voters."
WHAT ROLE DOES PUBLIC OPINION PLAY IN THIS ISSUE?
Gottwalt: "There are 30 other states in the nation that have felt this is important enough that they have put this in their constitutions."
Simon: "Over time ... we're going to look back, and we'll be a little bit ashamed about this debate, but we'll also be surprised that it was ever that big a deal. I predict that over the arc of time we will have marriage equality."
Click the audio portion of this feature to listen to the full debate.