Opinion: Vote in 2012 will be on gay marriage amendmentPublished 11:03am Monday, October 24, 2011
An amendment proposed for the Minnesota Constitution will be presented to voters in November 2012. It is really a simple matter, although some forces are working hard to exaggerate and distort it. Minnesota already has a law that defines marriage as that of one man and one woman. All the amendment would do is to incorporate existing law into the state constitution. If a person disagrees with the existing law, he or she can be expected to vote against the amendment. If a person agrees with existing law, he or she can be expected to vote for the amendment. It is really as simple as this.
Thirty-four years ago the Minnesota legislature enacted the marriage definition law. Last May the legislature voted to put the proposed amendment directly before the people of the state for our vote. The motivation for the constitutional amendment is to protect existing law from non-legislative abrogation. Those who proposed it, and the majority in the legislature who voted for it, reason that strange things are happening in courts and they could happen in Minnesota. Some courts have ruled that their state constitutions do not make specific provision to define marriage as of one man and one woman. Therefore, any law that so defines marriage is unconstitutional by default.
Those favoring this amendment reason: Alright, then, the people of the state will put it into the state constitution so that it does in fact provide for the law our elected representatives have enacted and that the people of the state have respected for over three decades. Whether one agrees the law should be protected, it is indisputable an amendment would indeed provide protection.
Among those who are strongly in favor of the existing law and want marriage so to be defined are some who, nonetheless, disfavor going as far as making it a constitutional matter. They reason rightly that constitutional amendments ought to be rare in order to ensure the stability of the constitution. I recognize this as the best possible objection to an amendment, and I respect this reasoning.
Its proponents counter, however, with the absolute necessity of amending, because it is very likely the existing law will eventually be overturned by a single court without the agreement of either the legislature or the citizens. Even when such attempts have failed, it has cost states great sums of money to maintain the will of the people. This is not hypothetical but anticipated from precedence.
So, if you favor the existing law defining marriage as one-man/one-woman and if you agree the law you favor is in danger, you would logically vote for the amendment that says the same thing. If you disagree with existing law, you would logically vote against the amendment. Yet, this would not really accomplish anything, because voting against the amendment will not change the law.
A person who feels no law should restrict marriage, would then also logically work to change the law itself. You need to persuade a majority of legislators to enact a new law. If you fail in this, you can still get elected others who will. Fair enough; this is how a democracy works.
But let us be honest about the meaning and effect of the proposed amendment. It will not change anything, just ensure this law is not changed. It has been cartooned as banning same-sex marriage. This is not only nonsense but blatantly dishonest. Same-sex marriage is already banned and has been for 34 years. Yet, the focus of neither existing law nor the proposed amendment is not anti-gay but pro-marriage as historically conceived and defined.
Granted, some arguing for the amendment are anti-gay indeed. They are repulsed by homosexuality and hostile toward gays and lesbians. I would never argue for them. This, however, is their problem but not a problem of either existing law or proposed amendment. The immoral attitude of some cannot logically or morally be used against the amendment. If this attitude should be adopted, it could easily be turned around to bite those who attempt to use it.
In November 2012 we will not be voting about a ban on same-sex marriage. We will not be voting on a law. We will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. However we vote individually, we must all know what we are doing and why we are doing it. Then vote according to your own convictions.