Mankato weighs in on marriage amendment

Marriage rally
Elle Scott, left, and Tanja Scott of Minneapolis, embrace during the OutFront Minnesota Lobby Day of Action at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. in this file photo from March 29, 2012. Nearly a dozen cities in Minnesota have passed resolutions opposing a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota, which will be on the November 2012 ballot.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Last September, a Mankato resident asked the city council to consider a resolution opposing the marriage amendment, according to Mankato City Council President Mike Laven.

The resident was concerned because it would ban same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution. Since then, the Duluth City Council voted to oppose the amendment, followed by St. Paul, Minneapolis, seven Twin Cities suburbs, and the Iron Range town of Mountain Iron.

Mankato's city council on Monday evening went on record to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that defines marriage as between one woman and one man.

The vote came after a nearly three-hour meeting with testimony both in support and against the amendment. The vote was four in favor and two abstaining. Mankato Mayor Eric Anderson cast the only vote against the city council's resolution. Before casting his vote, Anderson said he thought his role as mayor required him to advocate for the council's neutrality on the issue.

"It's bringing that conversation to light that I think we all need to have more often. I've never had an opportunity to say, 'Well, we can't talk about this because we can't find a solution,'" said Laven. "It's a bit more of a 'Let's see if there's a way we can remedy our differences.' If not, at least we know we've had that effort, we've had the conversation, we've tried to remedy our differences."

More than 40 people signed up for three-minute speaking slots, and the Council agenda included 33 pages of testimony from constituents on both sides of the issue.

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Andy Parrish
Andy Parrish is the deputy campaign manager for Minnesota for Marriage, the largest group working to pass the marriage amendment.
MPR photo/Sasha Aslanian

But a third group has also emerged, according to Laven -- people who don't think the Council has any business taking up the issue.

"I've gotten some emails from folks that have said, 'I want you to worry about more important things in Mankato. We have a lot of issues,'" Laven said. "And I responded back with, 'OK, can you give me some? I know there are some, but that's in the eye of the beholder.'"

Laven thinks the City Council is on top of what needs to be done in Mankato, and it has time to send the Legislature a message to stop using constitutional amendments as a way to govern.

Laven opposes the marriage amendment, and he also opposed the 2008 Legacy Amendment which designated state money for arts and the environment.

"Is that how we get school funding back? Is that how we get more money for roads and bridges? Is that how we get more money for veterans services or social services?" said Laven. "Where would this potentially stop?"

The groups campaigning for and against the marriage amendment say engaging cities is not part of their strategy. But Kate Brickman with Minnesotans United, the biggest group opposing the amendment, said her side supports any effort to spur more conversations about who should be able to marry.

"We aren't actively reaching out to cities and asking them to weigh in on this," she said. "I think a lot of this happens really organically. Someone with the human rights commission or a council member or just a really active community member will bring it up with their City Council and say, 'I think we should weigh in on this."

After watching 11 cities pass resolutions opposing the amendment, The Minnesota Family Council did alert supporters of an upcoming vote in Roseville. The Family Council asked them to keep an eye on their city councils and human rights commissions, and be ready to speak up in support of the amendment. Roseville has since delayed its vote twice.

Andy Parrish with Minnesota for Marriage, the largest group supporting the amendment, said he's not focused on mobilizing city councils, but rather, on mobilizing voters.

"I can't remember the last time the Mankato City Council won a statewide election," Parrish said. "They can push their agenda, they're politicians, they can do that. But the people in the cities where they live understand what marriage is, and they understand marriage is something that has been here since before government has been formed -- between one man and one woman."

The Mankato City Council president, Mike Laven, notes that along with the marriage amendment on the November ballot, he faces his own re-election. Voters may remember the vote he takes tonight.

MINNESOTA CITIES THAT HAVE VOTED TO OPPOSE THE MARRIAGE AMENDMENT

1. Duluth (12/19/2011)

2. St. Paul (01/25/2012)

3. Minneapolis (01/26/2012)

4. St. Louis Park (03/05/2012)

5. Edina (03/20/2012)

6. Falcon Heights (04/11/2012)

7. Golden Valley (05/01/2012)

8. Maplewood (06/11/2012)

9. Crystal (06/12/2012)

10. Robbinsdale (06/19/2012)

11. Mountain Iron (07/02/2012)

Source: Minnesotans United