Marriage Equality

For individuals opposed to gay marriage in Minnesota, the next twelve months may turn out to be painful. As if the last few months haven’t been difficult enough. In November 2012, a majority of Minnesotans rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would explicitly define marriage in the state as being between one man and one woman. We also rejected scads of politicians who endorsed the aforementioned amendment and elected a lot of politicians who opposed it, including the reelection of DFL Governor Mark Dayton. I was thrilled to be a part of the convincing majority of voters who believe in marriage equality, acted on that belief by voting, and paved a path for a legislative solution to the unjust ban on same-sex marriage.

Both sides of the argument over the rights of gay and lesbian couples, who comprise roughly 1% of all couple statewide, will be present at the Capitol in St. Paul during the next few weeks. Minnesota for Marriage, a group opposed to marriage equality, will kick off “National Marriage Week” on February 7th and is scheduled to include a rally for traditional marriage supporters. Specific dates and locations were not available on their website as of this writing. Pro-marriage equality group Minnesota United for All Families has organized a “Freedom to Marry” rally on February 14th on the Capitol Rotunda.

According to the Minnesota United website, “… the Freedom to Marry Day Rally will be a key first step in working with state legislators to ensure that, in 2013, Minnesota state law is changed to reflect our shared belief that loving and committed same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry.”

The wave of support for Democrat legislators and the sound defeat of a constitutional ban could signal that legal same-sex marriage is on the fast track this session. A bill is expected to be introduced by DFL Minnesota State Senator Mark Dibble, and Governor Dayton said, during the February 6th State of the State address, he will sign the bill into law should one come across his desk.

The movement to extend the equal rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples is winning not only in the great state of Minnesota, but also in nearby Illinois, where a marriage equality bill has been introduced but remains in the early stages of the legislative process. The still developing situation in New Jersey will be spotlighted in 2013. Right now activists and advocates are working tirelessly to secure the necessary votes in the state house and senate to overturn Governor Chris Christie’s veto (future voters should remember this information in 2016) of a bill passed in 2012 which would have legalized marriage for all couples. Out west, Washington State actually legalized gay marriage this November, an accomplishment which is applying pressure to southern neighbor Oregon to follow suit. The Democrat-led legislature there could prove victorious in 2014 by passing a marriage equality bill.

All of the progress on a state-by-state level will obviously be affected by the Supreme Court decisions expected to be handed down this spring. Voters in nine states and Washington DC, where same sex marriage is already legal, along with the bubble states like Minnesota and Illinois are among the millions of Americans waiting to hear the outcome of the constitutional challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Prop 8. The case for marriage equality will be heard by the highest court in the land in early spring with a ruling expected sometime in April. If the decision upholds the bans on same sex marriage, the equal rights movement will be damaged considerably. If the court decides that banning some citizens from accessing the right of marriage is unconstitutional then traditional marriage proponents may be permanently defeated. If just one of the states considering legalization, perhaps Minnesota, can join the club and become ten states to extend equal rights to all adults, perhaps the Supreme Court will notice and respond to the swell of support for gay and lesbian Americans. Finally guarantee everyone the right to marry, care for, and support the person they love most in the world, regardless of gender.