Legislating marriage — again

The times may change, but, not surprisingly, the Minnesota Family Council stays the same.

Mike Munzenrider

The surprising Republican takeover of the Minnesota Legislature gave social conservatives hope that they can push their agenda.
The innocuously named Minnesota Family Council, for instance, could be rallying for a myriad of positive steps to help Minnesota families. But its main goal is legislating fewer civil rights for fellow Minnesotans. The council plans, once more, to get a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot.
The MFC has been a foe of same-sex marriage in Minnesota for some time now. Efforts to amend the state constitution in similar ways in 2004, 2005 and in 2006 failed because of DFL opposition in the Legislature. But the group now sees a potential opportunity because likely governor-elect Mark Dayton, a pro-marriage equality DFLer, would not be able to block a vote on the issue. Constitutional referendums from the Legislature donâÄôt need a governorâÄôs signature and they cannot be vetoed.
After years of consistent opposition to such a ballot initiative, MFC President Tom Prichard is saying that the tables have turned. Prichard tempers his slightly hubristic tone, telling the Star Tribune, âÄúObviously, weâÄôre going to work hard to firm up our support and get it on the ballot, and you know the message is we believe the people should decide the definition of marriage âÄî not the courts or backroom political deals.âÄù
The populist tone and distrust of what IâÄôm sure heâÄôd call activist judges is a fine smokescreen for Prichard and the MFC to set. On the other hand, reading over the councilâÄôs mission statement, one finds no mention of the importance of direct democracy. Instead, they articulate their mission as this: âÄúOur mission is to strengthen the families of Minnesota by advancing biblical principles in the public arena.âÄù
Further, the MFCâÄôs opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in this plank of their mission: âÄúThe family is defined as people who are related by blood, marriage or adoption and should be founded on the life-long marriage of one man and one woman, which also is the best environment in which to rear children.âÄù
Newly-elected Republicans in the Legislature have been slow to share MFCâÄôs excitement in once again advancing such legislation. Current house minority leader, Kurt Zellers, was mum on how hard his party would be pressing conservative social issues when asked by the Star Tribune. The writing on the wall seems clear that Minnesotans have other priorities and this is not lost on Ted Lillie, a GOPer who unseated a DFL senator. The Star Tribune reports Lillie saying that, âÄúFrom the first door I went to, our message was jobs, jobs, jobs.âÄù
Truly, in this day and age, itâÄôs difficult to think of a less pressing issue than banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Understanding such an actionâÄôs tangible, real life benefits to anyone, and why Minnesotans would rally to support such a peripheral issue right now is difficult, if not impossible. I wished to ask the MFC these questions, but they failed to return my calls.
A newly-released Pew Research Center poll has found that a majority of Americans, 63 percent, believe that a same-sex couple with children does constitute a family. On top of that, a full 80 percent consider an unmarried couple with children to be a family as well.
The numbers point to the conclusion that the discussion of same-sex marriage, and marriage in general, is reaching a tipping point. The tables may have in fact turned, but itâÄôs uncertain if theyâÄôve gone the way Prichard and the MFC think they have. We face many pressing issues today and legislating against the rights of others will solve none of them.