Minnesota moves closer to voting on gay-marriage ban

A bill that would allow Minnesotans to vote on a same-sex marriage ban passed Thursday on the State House floor, raising questions on campus about what the climate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people could be like in the future.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, and Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, if voters pass it.

A gay-marriage ban would also prohibit other forms of partnerships, including polygamy, civil unions and domestic partnerships, Severson said.

Next, the bill will go to the State Senate floor. If it passes, Minnesotans will have the chance to vote on it during the 2006 elections.

At that point, one more than half of those who vote on the question would be needed to pass the constitutional amendment, said Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis.

“If you don’t vote on that specific question, it doesn’t count,” he said.

Restricting civil unions would also mean a same-sex couple cannot have health-care coverage or the ability to adopt children, Pogemiller said.

Although the bill would prohibit GLBT people from marrying, Severson said it will not affect the conditions of this community.

“All we’re saying is that marriage is an institution of society, and it is the best model for kids to grow up in,” he said.

At the University, some students said the acceptance of GLBT people won’t change.

“People will either reject or accept them with or without government action,” said Alex Newman, Students for Family Values vice president.

But Aaron Quick, a biochemistry sophomore, who is gay, said that if the amendment is approved, the GLBT community would be looked down upon for promiscuity.

“(The amendment) would take away the benefit to invest (GLBT people) in a long-term, committed relationship,” he said.

Quick said he is unsure whether he would want to get married because he “doesn’t know where the institution of marriage is headed.” But there are a few privileges he would like to have that the bill prohibits, including property rights and visits from a same-sex partner in hospitals, he said.

“I do hope that one day, someone would be able to visit me in the hospital and that I would be able to give another person some sort of property rights,” Quick said.

But Thomas Meyer, Campus Republicans president, said the hospital policies could change without affecting a “fundamental aspect of society.”

Severson said people would have the right to claim a same-sex partner as a beneficiary under certain legal documentation.

“They are screaming they will lose all their benefits,” but they will still have some rights, Severson said.

Newman said the future benefits of GLBT people need to be examined with this bill.

“It wouldn’t be right that certain people are held out of a will or that someone close who you would want to be there (during a hospital visit) would not be allowed to be with you,” he said.

Support for the bill is strong in the state, with 73 percent of those living in rural areas and 59 percent of the suburbs and metro area in agreement with the ban, Severson said.

If the constitutional amendment is passed, Minnesota would follow the lead of 13 other states that have passed legislation defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

“Our kids will look back on this and see the major changes their parents were able to do is to write in discrimination into their state,” said Chris Montana, College Democrats of Minnesota president.

“As far as we’ve come in acceptance and after all the advances we’ve made, we’re right back where we were 50 or 60 years ago,” he said. “We’re just talking about a different group of people.”