City Council neutral on marriage amendment

Published 11:08 am Monday, September 24, 2012

Council decides not to vote on issue

As the November vote asking Minnesotans whether to restrict the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples nears, the Austin City Council has chosen not to take an official stand on the matter.

The Austin Human Rights Commission recently asked the city council whether it would be willing to pass a resolution stating it opposed the marriage amendment. To date, 13 city councils have made that resolution in Minnesota. The Austin City Council took up the subject during open discussion at a work session on Sept. 4.

“Minnesota United for All Families has a letter of support that organizations can fill out if they want to help support that cause and spread awareness,” said Kristi Beckman, co-chair for the Austin HRC.

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The HRC intended to partner with Minnesota United, because its position on marriage lined up with that of the organization. The HRC follows the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which lists under Article 16 the freedom to marry. The declaration does not include any mention of gender in its definition.

The HRC believed at the time it needed the city’s approval to partner with Minnesota United, so it sent a request to the City Council. During the work session, Mayor Tom Stiehm said he knew other city councils had taken a stance on the subject, but noted they were a minority compared to the number of councils in the state that had not.

After a brief discussion, the council informally decided not to recommend any action be passed on to a scheduled council meeting. The council’s decisions are not made official unless passed by vote as a motion or resolution at a meeting.

“The general consensus was that they didn’t feel it should be brought to the council,” Beckman said.

Thinking back to that decision, Council Member Judy Enright said seven people shouldn’t make the call for everyone, especially because it could be an emotional, private matter.

“I felt that, as a city council member, we would have taken that stand on behalf of the City of Austin,” Enright said. “That’s a personal decision, something that people have strong beliefs over.”

Council Member Brian McAlister agreed.

“I was unwilling to do that because I don’t think it’s my business to tell somebody else how to vote on something,” he said.

The Austin Human Rights Commission later discovered it did not need the consent of the city to sign on as a partner to Minnesota United and could do so independently. Trish Wiechmann, human resources director with the city, said the HRC sent in its form on or around Sept. 10.

City councils opposing the marriage amendment

(listed in order)

1) Duluth

2) St. Paul

3) Minneapolis

4) St. Louis Park

5) Edina

6) Falcon Heights

7) Golden Valley

8) Maplewood

9) Crystal

10) Robbinsdale

11) Mountain Iron

12) Mankato

13) Roseville