Minnesota’s history of prohibiting gay marriage

by Jon Collins

The recent piece on the passage of Proposition 8 and other marriage bans dealt mostly with the local gay community’s reaction, rather than the status or history of gay marriage bans themselves.

Here in Minnesota the controversy is a little more than 35 years old, according to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

In 1971 the Minnesota Supreme Court was one of the first in the nation to rule that Minnesota statutes prohibited gay marriage in Baker v Nelson.

Minnesota’s defense of marriage act was passed in 1997, the statute states that "lawful marriage may be contracted only between persons of the opposite sex."

After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that laws banning gay marriage were unconstitutional in 2003, states moved to amend their constitutions (that way, it’s not unconstitutional anymore).

Attempts were made to pass the constitutional ban in the years between 2004 and 2006 in Minnesota, although each one failed.

After one failure, the group now known as Minnesota Majority, a conservative group, circulated a  "defense of marriage pledge" supporting a constitutional ban in 2004; it was signed by Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty among others.

Efforts at gay marriage bans are countered by activism from groups like Project 515 based in Minneapolis; the group is named for 515 Minnesota statutes that treat gay people differently than straight people.