After DFL Wins, Could Legislature Repeal State's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage?
SW Minneapolis DFL leader coy on prospects.
With a resounding victory Tuesday night and the DFL now primed to assume control of the 2013 legislative session, a prominent state senator is suggesting incoming lawmakers could try to repeal a Minnesota law banning same-sex marriage. A prominent Southwest Minneapolis legislator, though, said it was too early to discuss legalization.
Roseville state Sen. John Marty said he sees Tuesday night's election results as a changing of the guard.
After just two years at the helm of the Minnesota Legislature, Republicans lost control of both the House and Senate on Tuesday night—a defeat at least some Democrats are attributing in part to the marriage and Voter ID amendments.
Voters rejected both amendments by votes of 53 percent to 47 percent.
During the past two years as a minority party legislator, Marty said that he was only able to get a hearing on one of the many bills he has sponsored.
"I'm hopeful we can move forward," Marty told Patch. "I am hopeful of being able to move forward on health care and environmental issues."
Another issue that seems prime for new consideration is legalizing same-sex marriage, an initiative that Marty has previously but unsuccessfully pushed.
With the Legislature back in DFL control, and the Marriage amendment defeated, Marty expressed confidence that efforts to legalize same-sex marriage could happen, according to a Minnesota Public Radio news report today.
"Now the voters have agreed," Marty told the radio news network. "I think we just keep on moving forward on it now."
The idea of using the new DFL majority to push for legal rights for same-sex couples is, so far, getting a cautious reception from some politicians
As the last strains of Queen's "We are the Champions" faded into cheers at a victory celebration by same-sex marriage advocates at St. Paul's River Center, Southwest Minneapolis' state Sen. Scott Dibble was reluctant to speculate on what the election results might mean for LGBT rights. Dibble has been the legislature's most prominent leader on LGBT issues, and sponsored a 2009 attempt to repeal Minnesota's state Defense of Marriage Act, which bans same-sex marriage in this state.
"I don't want to get ahead of myself," Dibble told Patch. "We get to continue this conversation."
Prominent same-sex marriage supporters were playing their cards close to the vest the day after the election. In a Wednesday-morning interview with MPR, Dibble elaborated, saying same-sex marriage advocates "need to figure out what this victory means."
While the issue has largely been perceived as a poll on whether or not voters approve of same-sex marriage, the campaign by amendment opponents Minnesotans United for All Families also tried to draw support from voters who thought the state's current Defense of Marriage law obviated the need for a constitutional amendment.
At a Wednesday afternoon victory rally Monica Meyer, head of the statewide LGBT rights group OutFront Minnesota, told Patch the Minnesotans United coalition still needed to debate its next steps.
Senior legislative leaders may not be supportive of an immediate push against the same-sex marriage ban, either. In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Gov. Dayton and DFL minority leaders Rep. Paul Thissen and Sen. Tom Bakk said the state faced serious economic issues. Other "policy" issues, Bakk said, needed to go on "the back burner" for now.
Sen. Ron Latz—whose district includes Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Golden Valley—is one of those who isn’t convinced the marriage amendment defeat means there’s a broad consensus yet around the idea of same-sex marriage. With the state facing a structural deficit—and with ample time down the road to address gay marriage—other issues should have priority, he said.
“It think we ought to—at least for this coming year—focus our attention on the bread and butter issues of budget instead of the divisive social issues that have been taking this attention,” he said. “We’re in control now. We’re now responsible more than ever for passing the budget and the policy responses.
There is one issue that LGBT rights campaigners could likely bring forward next legislative session, Meyer said—anti-bullying measures designed to protect LGBT students.
"The governor's task force (on bullying prevention) has given us a lot of forward-moving support" on the issue, she said.