Same-sex marriage supporters in Minnesota gathered on Saturday to talk about the best ways to translate their defeat of the marriage amendment into other ways of advancing their goals, including making same-sex marriage legal.
More than 500 people took part in the forum at the Equality and Justice Summit in Minneapolis, some paying as much as $75 each to be there.
More than 100 people showed up for a session on potential same-sex marriage legislation. Organizer Michelle Dibblee explained how a grass-roots campaign to pass such legislation would work.
"We're not close enough to win unless we move some legislators to make what for them might be a challenging decision," Dibblee said. "To do that they need to hear from constituents and for those legislators to hear from constituents, we need to continue to organize. What we'll be doing over the course of the next six months is helping you all to connect more deeply in your communities, particularly in those places where we think there are legislators who need constituent pressure to be moved."
Dibblee had people break into small groups and practice making personal arguments about why Minnesota should legalize same-sex marriage now. Gale Julius was part of a five-woman group from the Rochester area.
"Because we won this with straight people saying, 'You know, I wouldn't dream of telling somebody that they couldn't have the special relationship that I have,'" Julius said. "Straight people in numbers stood up and said that. And so why now? Because they did. Why now? Because we want to continue that momentum. Don't let go of the plow till we get to the end of that row."
Another participant, Ruth Larson, said it makes political sense to act now.
"We have a Democratic House, Senate and governor," she said. "Strike while the iron's hot."
That fervor for action was expressed more conservatively by executive director Monica Meyer of OutFront Minnesota, the group that organized the summit.
"We haven't really talked about timing," Meyer said. "The only thing that we've really talked about is: How do we build enough support to really make marriage equality a reality and to make it inevitable?"
Meyer said they will push for that to happen regardless of the DFL Party's stance on same-sex marriage legislation.
"The people in this room aren't waiting for permission to really move forward," she said.
But they already have support from some DFLers. State Rep. Alice Hausman, a DFLer from St. Paul, said lawmakers cannot start real work on the budget until the Minnesota Management & Budget office issues its February revenue forecast, so they might as well take up same-sex marriage legislation in January.
"Some people say, 'Well, that means we get off track of the budget.' And we shouldn't have other issues dominate," Hausman said. "But if we don't deal with this immediately, I would argue it's going to dominate anyway because it hangs out there."
Not all DFLers agree. A recent MPR News analysis shows 17 DFL House members and 10 DFL senators are in districts where 50 percent of voters or more supported the same-sex marriage ban.
Incoming House Majority Leader Erin Murphy would not say if the Legislature will take up the issue of same-sex marriage.
"I don't think we should get ahead of Minnesotans," Murphy said. "They didn't really ask for this discussion to be raised two years ago when it was put on the ballot, but here we are."
Meanwhile, the many people who organized intensely for a year to pass a same-sex marriage ban in the constitution are waiting for the DFL to make a decision.
"All we can do is sit and wait," said Andy Parrish, the political director of Minnesota for Marriage, the group that led the campaign to ban same-sex marriage. "You've got control, now do it. Show your backbone if you have one."
He wants DFLers to act so Republicans can respond.
"They vote no," Parrish said. "They defend God's definition of marriage while the Democrats rewrite it. And you know you fight until the whistle blows."
Parrish said that if the DFL doesn't choose to have that fight, Democrats will disappoint many of their supporters.
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