Monday, March 20, 2006

Minnesota for Marriage is exploiting Johnson controversy

Posted by Craig Westover | 5:07 PM |  

Whoa. Although I oppose the Defense of Marriage Amendment, I agree with Minnesota for Marriage that it is an issue that ought to be debated on the Senate floor. One of the lessons of the Dean Johnson controversy is that legislators can spin issues with “embellishments,” or worse, when speaking to small groups. When they speak on the Senate floor, they can be held accountable.

Nonetheless, this release by Minnesota for Marriage unfairly exploits the Johnson controversy and makes some assumptions that I cannot agree with.
People of Minnesota silenced again!
DFL Senators carry out Johnson/Betzold scheme to muzzle the voice of Minnesotan’s by twice rejecting efforts to discuss marriage amendment on senate floor.

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA - Today, the DFL controlled senate – twice - voted to reject discussion of the marriage amendment. “This is inexcusable”, said Chuck Darrell communications director of Minnesota for Marriage. “This is just another example of the Johnson/Betzold political scheme to censor the people of Minnesota from defining marriage as between one man and one woman. When will DFL senators show some backbone and stand with their constituents – instead of special interests - who are simply asking for the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage?”
I repeat. I think the amendment bill should come to the floor for a vote. However, that doesn’t mean that because of Johnson's actions, we throw out the committee system and cast a sympathy vote for the marriage amendment. Because of what Johnson said and did the amendment has no greater nor no less significance, no greater no less credibility, no greater no less urgency for passage. The Senate still ought to follow its rules; I would urge members of the Judiciary committee to pass the bill, with or without recommendation to the Senate floor for debate.
Senator Jim Vickerman, DFL District 20, was the lone DFL senator to vote twice to hear discussion. “We thank Senator Vickerman for standing with his constituents and supporting the marriage amendment. We look forward to his continued support in the future,” he added.

Senator Paul Koering GOP District 12 voted twice to here discussion as well. “Our heartfelt thanks to Senator Koering,” said Darrell. “We plan to let Senator Koering’s constituents know that Paul heard their voice and voted to bring the amendment to the floor,” said Darrell.

Just because the people want to vote on the amendment, that doesn’t mean that they should. This is first an foremost a legislative issue. This is a great example of why we have a republican form of government and not a true democracy. The public’s response to the issue is visceral. Legislators should vote on the amendment considering a broader view of what constitutes constitutionality, the impact on other laws, the broader social consequences -- that’s why we have a committee system. No legislator should vote for the amendment bill just because people want to vote and he or she wishes to please constituents. Each vote for the amendment should be cast because the legislator truly believes the amendment would be good for Minnesota.
“If the amendment is not passed this session, the people of Minnesota will not have another chance to vote until at least 2008. This will give same-sex marriage advocates two years to redefine marriage in the Minnesota courts - the same Court that Johnson now admits never said they wouldn’t touch the amendment.”
That the state Supreme Court denied saying that they wouldn’t touch the marriage law, that does not necessarily mean that they will. Again, what Johnson said and did, unfortunately has influenced the perception of the Court’s stance, but not the reality. Based on Minnesota case law, overturning Minnesota’s marriage law is unlikely. If that remains a concern, however, again I have to ask -- why not an amendment that limits the authority for recognizing marriage and civil unions to the legislature, which protects the definition of marriage in statute but does not legislate through the constitution?