Professors, legislators debate same-sex marriage amendment on campus

The University of Minnesota Law School hosted the debate Thursday.

Nickalas Tabbert

A same-sex marriage debate brought to the University of Minnesota on Thursday raised students’ awareness for the upcoming vote in Novemeber.

The debate, which took place in the Univeristy Law School before an estimated crowd of 260 students and faculty, featured a panel of experts and state representatives.

Jennifer Roback Morse, a family social science professor, and Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, in favor of banning same-sex marriage, argued that what it means to be a parent would be redefined if same-sex marriage were legal.

“Public reason will be removed,” Morse said.  “Marriage is not to honor people or make them feel good, it serves the public purpose of potential for procreation.”

Gruenhagen said the amendment would redefine how people think about marriage and that religious liberty is at stake.

“There will be opposition to making marriage gender neutral,” he said.

University law professor Dale Carpenter and Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, argued that sexual orientation does not determine effective parenting .

“These people are doing the hard work to raise the next generation, and all they want is to be allowed to marry,” Carpenter said. “The same-sex marriage system can not only survive but thrive.”

Simon said there has been no harm from the six states that have legalized same-sex marriage.

“It comes down to the golden rule for me.  People want to treat others the way they want to be treated.”

Carpenter said even if the amendment is passed and gay marriage is banned, same-sex couples still have an opportunity to obtain full rights through civil unions.

“Civil unions are better than nothing, because currently that is what there is in Minnesota,” he said. 

Currently, same-sex marriage is illegal in the Minnesota.

Carpenter said there is something special about the word marriage.

“You don’t see anyone getting down on one knee and asking their significant other ‘Will you unionize me?’”

Professor Richard Painter of the Law School served as the moderator for the hour-long debate, asking four questions created by the five student groups that sponsored the event.

The amendment was passed by the Minnesota Legislature in May 2011.  It will be on the ballot in the upcoming election.

“Our goal was to get speakers that would adequately represent both sides,” James Dickey, symposium chair for The Federal Society student group.  “We wanted two legislators from the house or senate and then two national voices.”

Dickey said he was pleased with how both sides  represented their respective views.

The debate came the same day the University Student Senate passed a resolution to oppose the amendment. University Senate Chairman Joshua Preston said the vote was 23-1 in favor of opposing, with four members abstaining.

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted Feb. 10 to oppose the amendment and Mayor R. T. Rybak agreed to sign the resolution.