Local legislators vote no to same-sex marriage

Demonstrators on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate expressed their feelings with placards, shirts and voice before the House of Representatives debated the issue May 9. (Photo by Howard Lestrud)
Demonstrators on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate expressed their feelings with placards, shirts and voice before the House of Representatives debated the issue May 9. (Photo by Howard Lestrud)

Law goes into effect Aug. 1

T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

It’s done.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law last Tuesday legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.

The legislation, which goes into effect Aug. 1, makes Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

According to The Williams Institute’s analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, there were some 10,207 same-sex couples living in Minnesota, representing 4.9 same-sex couples per 1,000 households. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota ranks 23rd among the states and Washington D.C. in terms of same-sex couples. North Dakota and South Dakota had the lowest percentages, with Delaware, Massachusetts, Vermont, California and Oregon having the highest.

According to the U.S. Census 2010 American Community Survey, there are about 594,000 same-sex couple households in the United States. Out of these households, some 115,000 reported having children. About one quarter of same-sex couple households reported they were spouses.

In states with same-sex marriage, about 42 percent of same-sex couple households were reported as spouses as compared to about 28 percent for states with domestic partnerships or civil unions, and about 23 percent for all other states.

Between 2000 to 2010, the number of same-sex couple households in Minnesota increased around 50 percent, according to the survey.

Local Voting

Local legislators voted against the same-sex marriage bill. Several explained their stance to the Times:

Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake)

“I am a supporter of preserving the definition of marriage and do not support state law changes that adjust that definition in any way. The institution of marriage is older than our nation or government and will need to last for centuries to come; I believe yesterday’s vote is a step in the wrong direction and may lead to other unfortunate consequences. The majority of the messages I received from constituents on this issue were opposed to this legislation. … The DFL majority has yet to develop a budget or set fiscal targets for the various finance committees. The people of Minnesota deserve better and want a balanced budget through tax reduction and prioritizing spending.


Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom)

“Most who contacted me asked that I support traditional marriage as did 61 percent of the people who responded to my legislative survey earlier this year.  Six months ago 57 percent of Chisago County voted in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman because it represented their collective beliefs about marriage. In all, 80 of 87 Minnesota counties voted this way. Despite that, with state government leadership now in the hands of mostly metro politicians, gay marriage was legalized.”


Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point)

“Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to hear from hundreds of constituents about their views on marriage in Minnesota. I value the opinions of each and every person who has weighed in on this important issue, on both sides of the discussion. This is truly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.

Normally bills go through many committees before getting to the senate floor to vet out any concerns and give the public an opportunity to testify both for or against. This bill did not get this same time and attention. Many members of the community felt like their concerns were not heard. I may have been able to fully support this bill had I had a deeper understanding of how it would affect the protections under our First Amendment, and a few other concerns. Had I been able to hear first-hand some of the testimony, it would have helped with my comfort level.

This is a divisive issue in our state. It has divided our state, our communities, our churches, family and friends. Minnesota now needs to heal, unite and move forward.”


Sen. Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge)

“The historic vote legally sanctioning same-sex marriage comes on the heels of the unsuccessful vote last fall to prevent Minnesota courts from redefining marriage as anything other than the union of one man and one woman. Despite telling Minnesotans that nothing would change if they voted “No” on that question last fall, changing the definition of marriage became a priority for the new DFL majorities in both the House and Senate. When the new law takes effect this summer, they will have succeeded in redefining marriage. I did not vote for the proposal.

Marriage predates governmental definitions and regulation. Government did not create marriage. Marriage laws were crafted to acknowledge a socially beneficial structure, an institution (marriage) which existed and benefitted society through childbirth and a strong social structure for the rearing of those children – a stable environment with both a mother and father, which is well known to be the most beneficial environment for a child. Gay marriage advocates want to use the force of the state to change a pre-existing institution. If the state can change the definition of an institution it did not create, then it can force people to do so as well. There is a distinct potential the new law could adversely affect traditional families and certainly will come into conflict with certain individuals’ expression under First Amendment rights to adhere to religious beliefs.

Minnesota will have to sort out in the courts paternity and parental laws as well as the legal use of words like mother, father, husband and wife, which will now be prohibited by law in various instances. Those terms will now be required by this law to change into something “gender neutral.” I see fundamental societal challenges ahead as Minnesota grapples with a new law that seems to imply that to be a child’s mother has nothing to do with being female, and to be a child’s father has nothing to do with being male. This is our new law.

As acknowledged in the bill language attempting to protect some religious institutions, this law has an inherent conflict with some religious liberties. I addressed some of those concerns during Senate debate, and I highlighted the fact (as acknowledged in a letter by renowned law professors) that there are some religious liberties protections for institutions and corporations in this new law but individual protection does not exist in the language. That is highly problematic, and I hope that particular flaw in the law will be addressed in the very near future.”