- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2012

When President Obama travels to Minnesota Friday, he’ll be campaigning in another key state where his recent conversion to support of gay marriage could carry political risk.

Minnesota voters will decide in November whether to approve a gay-marriage ban similar to those adopted in 30 other states. Although a majority of voters in nationwide polls say they support same-sex marriage, voters consistently have rejected gay marriage in state referendums since 2004.

While Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes are considered fairly safe for Mr. Obama, his May 9 announcement in support of same-sex marriage has produced a backlash. Catholic churches in Minnesota have donated more than $350,000 to Minnesota for Marriage, a group that supports the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.

There are undercurrents of opposition in other communities. In St. Paul, the black pastor of Grace Community United Church of Christ is about to lose his church to foreclosure, primarily because of his seven-year-long support of same-sex marriage. The Rev. Oliver White said his stand has resulted in the loss of three-quarters of his congregation in protest, with his church the target of threats and a drive-by shooting.

“I thank you, President Obama, for being the role model I need at a most crucial time in my life,” Mr. White wrote in a recent fundraising appeal.

Minnesota is one of four states that are likely to have gay-marriage measures on the ballot in November, along with Maryland, Maine and Washington state. North Carolina, which will host the Democratic National Convention in early September and is crucial to Mr. Obama’s re-election effort, approved a constitutional amendment May 8 defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. New Jersey also might take up a referendum.

The Obama campaign has announced its opposition to Minnesota’s marriage amendment. Kristin Sosanie, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama’s state campaign, said “the record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples.”

A fierce debate still rages over whether nearly a dozen similar gay-marriage state votes helped or hurt President George W. Bush in his narrow re-election win over Democrat John F. Kerry in November 2004. Both sides say the social hot-button issue helped motivate their base voters to go to the polls that year.

Still, Mr. Obama should win Minnesota. He won the state by 10.2 percentage points over Sen. John McCain of Arizona in 2008, and the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows the president leading GOP nominee Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points.

The president’s trip, like most, will mix politics with an event that is billed as official business. Mr. Obama will tour a Honeywell International factory in Golden Valley, Minn., before calling on Congress to approve initiatives aimed at encouraging the private sector to hire more veterans.

After that, he will attend three big-ticket fundraisers in Minnesota before flying on to Chicago for three more fundraisers Friday night.

About 350 people are expected at the Chicago Cultural Center for an event where tickets cost a minimum of $1,000. Then Mr. Obama will attend a dinner at the home of Chaka and Tracey Patterson; Mr. Patterson is a lawyer with the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and his wife is an executive at Accenture, a global consulting firm.

The last of the day’s six fundraisers will be a reception at the home of Paula and Jim Crown, where tickets will cost $35,800. The Crowns own four ski resorts, and Mr. Crown is president of a private investment company. They are longtime Obama supporters.

In all, Friday’s fundraisers will bring in well over $5 million.

And the president apparently will get his wish to sleep in his own bed — something he noted he wasn’t able to do at the NATO summit in Chicago two weeks ago — by spending the night at his home in the Hyde Park neighborhood.