‘Vote Yes’ for marriage less present on campus

Marriage amendment supporters haven’t specifically reached out to students while opponents are more active on college campuses.

by Bryna Godar

With “vote no” signs and buttons plastering walls and backpacks, the University of Minnesota campus has become a poster board of opposition to the proposed amendment that would constitutionally define marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

“You only see one side of the debate; there isn’t much of a balance,” said Kyle Stowe, a journalism junior who supports the amendment.

“It’s pretty tough for somebody who’s in my camp,” he said.

While amendment opponents have campaigned extensively with students, amendment supporter groups such as Minnesota for Marriage are taking a different approach.

“Ours is a very grassroots movement,” said Alessandro Marchetti, outreach coordinator with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which has formed a coalition with Minnesota for Marriage.

He said students come to them asking for information, and the group then educates and provides materials.

Marchetti said students have volunteered at the State Fair, phone banked and brainstormed campaign strategies such as “vote yes” wristbands.

“For the most part, at least thus far, our handling of college students has been very similar to all our other volunteers and supporters,” Marchetti said.

Stowe said he hasn’t met another student this year that is “totally and completely” in favor of the amendment.

“If [amendment supporters] are trying, we’re not noticing, but I don’t think there’s enough people, honestly, around campus to make an impact,” he said.

Minnesotans overall narrowly support the amendment, but half of those aged 18-45 oppose it while 45 percent support it, according to a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in September.

“Younger people in the United States tend to be far more supportive of marriage equality and in general of LGBT rights than older Americans do,” said Joe Soss, a professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“So it’s not surprising that on campuses we see pretty strong support for extending rights and privileges related to marriage,” he said.

Opponent strategy

Minnesotans United for All Families, a group that opposes the amendment, has been much more aggressive in campaigning among youth.

Efforts have included phone banking and conversation training. A student group also recently formed on campus called Students United for All Families  Vote No.

“Every day on campus we are out clip-boarding and talking to students about the amendment,” said Laura Hoffman, co-chair of Students United.

Hoffman, a political science senior, said the group is focused on making students aware of the amendment and having conversations.

“What we’ve found is we don’t need to convince younger people to vote no,” said Kate Brickman, spokeswoman for Minnesotans United.

The campaign is instead focused on empowering youth to get involved and encouraging them reach out to older generations and family members who may think differently.

“The power of our campaign is talking about personal stories,” Brickman said.

She said youth can be “extremely influential in bridging the generational gap” and that same-sex marriage is much more a generational issue than a partisan one.

College Republicans at the University has not taken a stance as a group on the issue, said Vice President Matthew Novak, an actuarial sciences junior.

“Within our own group, there’s a number of different opinions,” Novak said. “I am personally against the amendment.”