“It’s a sad shameful, shameful day,” said state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), following the Senate vote to put a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in front of voters. “This is not the future Minnesotans want for themselves."
The vote to pass the amendment was 38-27, mostly along party lines. The state House will hear the bill later this week.
The Senate debate, which lasted more than three hours, was largely one-sided as DFL lawmakers spoke out against the bill on moral, religious, economic and civil rights grounds.
Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) said the legislature needed to be careful not to enshrine discrimination in the constitution, especially since a law banning gay marriage is already on the books. "There was a time when the laws of marriage meant a man acquired a woman as his property," she said. "I’m certainly glad that didn’t get put into our constitution."
One of the few Republicans to chime in was the bill's author, Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove). He said the amendment was necessary to avoid having "activist judges" make decisions on gay marriage. He urged senators to allow voters to decide the issue. “We’re conducting this early in the biennium to give our statewide community over a year to address this issue,” Limmer said. “It’s simply to give the voters the opportunity to define marriage as one man, one woman."
Dibble was one of the most vocal opponents. Early in the hearing, he shared a photo of he and his husband Richard, who were married in California in 2008. “Not a single family in Minnesota is helped by this effort. I’ll tell you what, a lot of families are hurt,” Dibble said. “What this amendment is going to do, we’re not going to have a conversation, we’re going to have an ugly, divisive campaign.”
In a press conference following the vote, Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis) vowed to fight the bill in the House. Dibble said Republicans overreached to pay back a “very vocal minority” for their political victories last year. In other states, similar constitutional amendments have been approved by voters every time they were presented. Dibble vowed that Minnesotans would organize against the amendment.
“Young people are appalled, they are shocked, they are dismayed—it’s not going to lead to depression and disengagement, they’re going to be engaged like we saw them engage in 2008,” Dibble said. “Thirty-one states have passed this thing—it’s not going to be 32.”