Gay marriage ban keeps moving toward Minn. ballot

MARTIGA LOHN | Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage moved closer to getting on Minnesota’s 2012 ballot Monday, clearing a Republican-led House panel after its first Senate committee approval last week.

If both chambers approve the proposal, voters would be asked next year whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage solely as union of one man and one woman.

The amendment’s prospects have improved this year after last year’s elections gave Republicans full control of the Legislature for the first time in nearly four decades. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the amendment but doesn’t have the power to block it.

The 10-7 party-line vote by the House Civil Law Committee seemed almost preordained, with the panel’s Republicans voting yes and Democrats no. Minnesota law already prohibits gay marriage and prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. But Rep. Steve Gottwalt, the bill’s sponsor, said he wants voters to be the ones to define marriage in Minnesota, not lawmakers or judges.

“It is not about hate, it is not about discrimination, it is about defining in Minnesota’s constitution the definition of marriage,” said Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud.

The amendment’s opponents predicted it would unleash a divisive political campaign that could tear apart families and communities.

“How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether God actually wants them around?” said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, drawing applause and shushing from panel chairman Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake.

Religious leaders of various backgrounds testified on both sides of the issue about the importance of families.

Pastor Sergio Choy of Bloomington’s Ministerio Maranatha Church spoke in favor of traditional marriage, adding that redefining the institution to include same-sex unions would be comparable to trying to make water out of hydrogen or oxygen alone.

“It is one mother and one father, one man and one woman who make up the foundation of the family,” Choy told lawmakers.

Gay-rights supporters warned legislators they risked overstepping their role and going against the tide of history as acceptance of gay relationships increases.

“This is not the religious law committee — this is the civil law committee,” said David Cummer, an elder at Grace Trinity Community Church in Minneapolis. “You guys have not been elected to the College of Cardinals. You are not members of the state church of Minnesota.”

The bill now heads to the Ways and Means Committee, its last stop before reaching the full House. The Senate version will go before a rules panel before reaching the floor.

—  John Wright

Hundreds rally against Ind. marriage amendment

DEANNA MARTIN | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Several hundred people gathered Monday at the Indiana Statehouse to rally against a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions.

The “Equality for All Hoosiers” rally Monday came two days before a Senate committee meeting that will take up the issue. The Republican-controlled House already has approved the proposal, and the Republican-led Senate also is expected to pass it.

But those at the rally said the amendment would write discrimination into Indiana’s constitution. They’re urging lawmakers to vote against the proposal and voters to pay attention to those votes during the next election cycle.

If the General Assembly approves the proposed amendment this year, it would have to pass again in 2013 or 2014 to be on the ballot in 2014.

—  John Wright

Coleman files bill to repeal Texas’ marriage ban

Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a joint resolution that would repeal the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Coleman has filed a similar resolution in each session since the constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot by the Legislature in 2005.

In order to pass, the resolution would need a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate. Needless to say, this isn’t going to happen, but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere. If Coleman’s resolution were to pass, repeal of the amendment would still need to be approved by a simple majority of voters and would appear on the ballot in November 2011.

Unfortunately, a repeal of the constitutional amendment is necessary before Texas can grant same-sex couples any form of relationship recognition, including civil unions or domestic partnerships. That’s because the broadly worded amendment prohibits the state or a political subdivision from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

The full text of Coleman’s H.J.R. 102 is after the jump.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Chick-fil-A skewered; Lady Gaga v. Justin Bieber; Ind. marriage ban advances

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Signs like the one above — an apparent reference to Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay ties — have cropped up on telephone poles around the West Virginia University campus, which is home to one of the chain’s franchises. We happen to think the signs are brilliant, but apparently they might be a little too heady for West Virginia, where police say they could represent a hate crime.

2. Our new anthem — Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” — will be released two days early, on Friday, according to a tweet from Gaga on Monday. Smart move. No matter how good the song really is, it will undoubtedly seem utterly amazing compared to Friday’s other notable pop release — Justin Bieber’s 3D biopic Never Say Never.

3. An Indiana House panel voted 8-4 Monday to advance a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Perhaps the lawmakers were swayed by the following testimony from Micah Clark of the American Family Association, who compared marriage to the Super Bowl: “If any two teams could place it would lose the significance. It wouldn’t be so super.” Does anyone else sense that these folks are getting really desperate?

—  John Wright

Iowa House votes to overturn same-sex marriage


The Iowa House voted 62-37 today to pass a resolution that would place a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the ballot.

The resolution now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has vowed to block it. Even if it passes the Senate, the resolution would have to pass again in the next session of the Legislature before being placed on the ballot in 2013.

The proposed constitutional amendment would ban not only same-sex marriage, but also civil unions and domestic partnerships.

“The actions of the Iowa House have the potential to place families at risk,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. “The people of Iowa deserve better from their representatives. Iowa has a proud tradition of protecting the liberties of all of its citizens and we call upon the Senate to restore that tradition.”

Watch video from Monday’s public hearing on the bill above.

—  John Wright

Texas legislator seeks ban on Sharia law

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler

This just in from the Twitters: Looks like right-wing State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar state courts from enforcing, considering or applying any religious or cultural law. Berman appears to be seeking something similar to the constitutional amendment passed by Oklahoma voters last year outlawing Sharia law, or Islamic law. A federal judge has blocked enforcement of the Oklahoma amendment — which passed overwhelmingly — while she determines whether it’s in line with the U.S. Constitution. Of course, the irony here is that if religious-based law were banned in Texas or Oklahoma, you’d have to throw out half the books, including the bans on same-sex marriage. People like Berman don’t want a ban on religious law; they want a ban on non-fundamentalist Christian law.

—  John Wright