Metro, rural Minnesota split on marriage

Polls show fewer rural Minnesotans support same-sex marriage legislation.

Supporters of same sex marriage in Minnesota rally at the State Capitol despite rain and snow on Thursday, April 18, 2013,.

Amanda Snyder

Supporters of same sex marriage in Minnesota rally at the State Capitol despite rain and snow on Thursday, April 18, 2013,.

Jessica Lee

 

Minnesota legislators have five weeks to decide if they want to repeal the state’s law banning same-sex marriages — an action supporters say will help the economy, but opponents say isn’t right for the state.

Many opponents of the bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in the state say it reflects the beliefs of metro-area Minnesotans but not those from greater Minnesota.

The two Democratic-Famer-Labor Party legislators who proposed the bill are from Minneapolis, and support to repeal the state law in the metro area far exceeds greater Minnesota.

The rift between metro and rural Minnesotans has also caused difficulty for DFL legislators whose party largely supports same-sex marriage but whose constituents have made clear they do not.

Same-sex marriage proponents have rallied in the Twin Cities recently to gather support while opponents have headed to all corners of the state.

On Thursday, nearly a thousand people cheered in the April snow, urging state legislators to vote in favor of the bills that would allow same-sex marriage starting in August.

Hosted by Minnesotans United for All Families and OutFront Minnesota, the event on the Capitol’s mall attracted students, families and couples.

“It was a huge crowd despite the sleet and bad weather,” said Minnesotans United spokesman Jake Loesch. “That’s just a testament to how much people want this.”

The bill would allow religious institutions to marry same-sex couples but wouldn’t require it.

“Under the Constitution of the United States, as an American citizen, you have a right to the same guarantees and protections as anyone else,” said Gov. Mark Dayton. “Fundamental to our way of life and society is the freedom to marry the person you love.”

A recent study by the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Law found 43 percent of people in Minnesota are in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage.

A Star Tribune poll in February found 38 percent of Minnesotans support the measure.

Autumn Leva, spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, said those percentages decrease further away from the metro area.

The Star Tribune poll found 57 percent of people in Hennepin and Ramsey counties support same-sex marriage while only 19 percent said the same in outstate Minnesota.

Greater Minnesota is “very, very much opposed to the metro area’s attempt to force gay marriage on the rest of the state,” she said.

After spending two weekends sponsoring rallies in Duluth, Rochester and other cities, Leva said people in those areas are telling their legislators: “‘No, please don’t do this; that’s not what I sent you to St. Paul to do.’”

Various groups have weighed in on the divisive issue, citing different effects of passing the legislation.

A week before Minnesotans United rallied at the Capitol on Thursday, several prominent state businessmen and women wrote a letter sponsored by Minnesotans United advising the governor and Legislature to pass the bills, arguing it would help the state’s economy.

“Discrimination is bad for business,” it said. “A welcoming state is essential to recruiting and retaining the best young talent.”

Authors of the letter said allowing same-sex marriage in Minnesota would lead to “economic prosperity.”

According to another report by the Williams Institute, same-sex marriages could boost Minnesota’s economy by $42 million.

The weddings and tourism activity would create new jobs and also add $3 million in tax revenue within the first three years of its implementation, according to the report.

While same-sex marriage seems to be a divisive issue for some proponents and opponents of the bills, others said they don’t have anything against it because it doesn’t affect them.

“We shouldn’t be holding them back from having the same opportunities,” said Emilee Engler, a park recreation and leisure studies freshman.

She said although her religion doesn’t agree with the marriages, she doesn’t think the law should prohibit the weddings from happening just because her beliefs don’t match.

“It wouldn’t harm me,” Engler said.

Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, sponsor of the House’s version, said the Legislature is close to having enough votes to pass same-sex marriage, but there are still some legislators who are undecided or haven’t voiced their opinions.

Thursday’s rally came a day after Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, announced he would amend his civil unions bill — which is yet to receive its first hearing — to omit the word “marriage” from state law entirely and put “civil union” in its place.

Kelly’s proposal, amended or not, has received heavy criticism from same-sex marriage supporters.

Dayton said at the rally that people don’t want to have civil unions — they want to be married.

Opponents of same-sex marriage don’t agree with passing the civil unions bill either, Leva said.

“We believe marriage is the best policy for the state,” she said. “We believe it is the only policy we have that uniquely and purposely connects kids with their parents. That’s something worth keeping.”