Pawlenty signs pledge to back marriage amendment

Stephanie Kudrle

Gov. Tim Pawlenty came out in support of a state constitutional amendment to define marriage Monday.

He joined state legislators, clergy members and other supporters in signing a pledge to push for an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Pawlenty said marriage was the cornerstone of society and that he needed to take a stance on it.

“Traditional marriage is itself a pledge, and I will take a pledge to defend it,” he said. “Some issues are too important to play the field with.”

Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said Pawlenty and Republicans have different political agendas from Senate Democrats.

The amendment passed the Republican-led House six weeks ago but has been stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate since March.

Amendment supporters said they want the issue to be heard on the Senate floor before the session ends in 10 days. If it passes this session, voters would decide on the November ballot whether to add the amendment to the state constitution.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said the debate over same-sex marriage is the most defining issue in the country today.

He charged that Senate Democrats were stalling the amendment in order to avoid taking a stance on the issue.

“What’s wrong with being held accountable?” Sviggum said.

Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, said Minnesotans should be given the opportunity to vote whether to add the amendment to the state constitution.

“People want to be heard, no matter how they feel about the issue,” she said.

She also scolded Senate Democrats, particularly Johnson, for not giving the issue one minute of debate on the chamber floor.

Johnson, the Senate majority leader, responded to her accusations and said there were more important issues to debate this session, such as fixing the deficit and passing the bonding bill.

He said the marriage amendment has soured relationships in the Legislature and let private morals dictate public policy.

“We have to be careful about telling people how to lead their private lives,” he said.