ST. PAUL, Minn. — With New York now gearing up for same-sex weddings, the battle lines are forming for the next skirmishes over gay marriage particularly in Minnesota.
Gay-marriage supporters in the Land of 10,000 Lakes will be working fervently to end a 31-state losing streak at the polls and defeat a proposed amendment on the 2012 ballot that would limit marriage to one-man, one-woman unions.
It’s expected to be a closely fought campaign, attracting extensive out-of-state resources.
“The other side is certainly desperate for a victory at the ballot box. We expect to be outspent,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference and a member of the coalition supporting the amendment.
If the amendment passes, in a state viewed as politically moderate, foes of gay marriage will be able to claim that the New York Legislature’s vote Friday to legalize same-sex marriage did not turn the tide nationally. Their side will have extended a winning streak dating to 1998, with opponents of same-sex marriage prevailing every time it has been put to a popular vote.
If the amendment is defeated, gay-marriage supporters will be able to make a strong case that public opinion has turned in their favor.
“These ballot measures are so expensive and so divisive,” said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s biggest gay-rights group. “If we can defeat this, it sends a strong message that at some point soon these things just aren’t going to be brought up at all any more.”
Thirty states have passed amendments banning gay marriage, while Maine voters in 2009 overturned a bill passed by the Legislature that would have legalized the practice. Where same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and the District of Columbia it came about through court orders or legislative action, not by popular vote.
Chuck Darrell of the Minnesota Family Council, which supports the proposed amendment, said the New York vote validated the concerns of Minnesota legislators who put the ban on next year’s ballot.
Ann Kaner-Roth of Project 515, a Minnesota gay-rights group, said she and her fellow activists would take lessons from what happened in New York.
“They were able to build such a broad-based coalition: Republicans, independents and Democrats, the business community all coming out very strongly in support of equality,” Miss Kaner-Roth said. “Minnesota is really ripe for that kind of coalition-building.”
The anti-amendment coalition is sure to include Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who was unable to keep the measure off the ballot but has vowed to campaign against it. He already had appeared at a fundraiser held by amendment opponents and marched in the Twin Cities gay pride parade on Sunday a first for a Minnesota governor.
Gay-marriage advocate Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, anticipates an intense struggle in Minnesota.
“Any time minority rights are put up to a majority vote, in the white-hot heat of nasty political exchanges, it’s a dangerous situation,” he said.
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