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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 27, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 21
Al Franken speaks out for marriage equality in Minnesota
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Al Franken speaks out for marriage equality in Minnesota

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced May 23 that he supports marriage equality and opposes his state's proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

'Every Minnesotan deserves dignity and equal treatment under the law, and our state's same-sex couples should have the same right to marry as anyone else - period,' Franken said in a statement.

'This amendment would do nothing more than write discrimination into our state's constitution and add to the barriers same-sex couples already face to the full recognition of their families. I'm hopeful that common sense and compassion will prevail and that this amendment will be defeated.'

Franken is also one of the co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, legislation pending before the Senate that would repeal DOMA.

On May 21, the Minnesota House gave final approval to the proposed state constitutional amendment by a vote of 70-62. The state Senate had already passed the measure on May 11, by a vote of 38 to 27.

The vote split mostly along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. Four Republicans crossed over to vote No, and two Democrats voted Yes.

The legislature's approval sends the measure to the voters. If a majority approves the marriage ban in 2012, it will become part of the state constitution.

Same-sex marriage is already banned in Minnesota by statute, but passage of the amendment would prohibit the legislature from legalizing same-sex marriage in the future, and prevent state courts from finding a right to same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

The measure's supporters say the proposed constitutional amendment leaves open the possibility of enacting same-sex civil unions in Minnesota.

In a symbolic move, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the amendment, although he acknowledged that his veto would not keep the measure off the ballot.

Dayton was joined at a May 25 press conference by two openly Gay lawmakers - Representative Karen Clark and Senator Scott Dibble - at a Wednesday news conference at the Minnesota capitol.

Minnesotans should 'reject this mean-spirited, divisive, un-Minnesotan, and un-American amendment,' Dayton said.

'The civil or legal realm of marriage is the province of government and it must conform to the protections and guarantees afforded every American citizen under our Constitution.

'All American citizens are entitled to equal rights and protections under the law. That would clearly include the right of a citizen to marry legally the person he or she loves.

'The path of social progress in this country has been to include everyone fully and equally. This path of social progress, of human compassion and understanding, would be tragically reversed by this amendment. Minnesota is better than this. Minnesotans are better than this. I urge Minnesotans to reject this amendment,' Dayton said.

Dibble said the legislation 'sends a signal to young people who've been so disheartened by the actions of our legislature, who've been sent such a negative message, a message of being marginalized, a message that our constitution is not for them.'

'Our governor is saying, 'That's not the case,' he added.

Clark had given an impassioned speech on the House floor, imploring her colleagues to allow her to marry her partner.

'Until this last election, I thought my partner and I might be able to be one of the early couples to enjoy the rights of marriage by a law getting passed and signed in Minnesota. But that possibility has changed, at least for now,' Clark said.

'But I beg you, colleagues, please don't make me go off to Iowa. I was raised in Minnesota. I'm a child of Minnesota,' she added.

Two Republican legislators also gave notable speeches against the amendment.

Rep. John Kriesel, a freshman Republican and an Iraq war veteran who lost both his legs in combat, delivered an impassioned address.

'Happiness is so hard to find for people, so they find someone who makes them happy and we want to take that away?' Kriesel said. 'We say you can be together but you can't marry them? That's wrong and I don't agree with it.'

Rep. Rod Hamilton said he had supported the amendment until his teenage daughter talked him out of voting for it.

'She said, 'Dad, I think a person should be able to marry whomever they love whether it's the opposite sex or not,' Hamilton said.

Both sides were already planning their respective campaigns even as the House voted to send the amendment to Minnesota voters.

Supporters of the anti-equality amendment are calling themselves 'Minnesota for Marriage' while opponents have formed a group called 'Minnesotans United for All Families.'

LGBT activists said they believe public opinion is shifting in their favor, and that the next 18 months would give them time to reach voters with a message that same-sex relationships do not threaten other families.

'This isn't necessarily a case you can make to people in a sound bite,' said Monica Meyer, executive director of the LGBT rights group OutFront Minnesota. 'But if you have the chance to sit down with someone and explain to them that this hurts real families and doesn't help anyone, that's how you win people over.'

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