Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Senate should vote on marriage amendment

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:34 AM |  

Regardless on one's view of the Defense of Marriage Ammendment, this is how an institutional editorial should be written. Great job, PiPress!

Senate should vote on marriage amendment


The Minnesota Constitution is clear: An amendment to it requires majority votes from both houses of the Legislature, and a majority of people voting in the general election in which the amendment is proposed.

The constitution does not require that one house or the other vote for or against amendments; it does not require that proposed amendments get a rubber stamp from either house; it does not require that they get anywhere at all.

It does require, as stated above, that before an amendment can be voted upon by the public it has to get majority approval in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

That's a useful hurdle.

Amending the constitution isn't easy; nor should it be. The system designed to conserve it protects the constitution from short-lived frenzies and railroaded subversions. It protects residents from those, and, to an extent, from the tyranny of the majority.

Hence, the Minnesota Senate is under no obligation to approve an amendment to the constitution that bans marriage between same-sex partners.

Neither is it obliged to even vote on it. Squelching legislative proposals with procedure rather than vote is an oft-practiced tactic of both parties, and whether it's good or bad depends often on what one thinks of the proposal and the party that's making it.


That said, the proposed amendment should come to a vote in the Senate.
Here's why:

• It's a bad idea, for several distinct reasons*, and the senators who know it should stand up and be counted.

• Bad ideas are better off confronted than suppressed.

• Minnesotans are, by and large, fair and reasonable people. Despite the conversation-stopping epithets hurling from the extremes of this debate, most people live lives of considerably more nuance, and their decisions will be informed accordingly.

Legislators who fear backlash to their anti-amendment vote have more to fear from a perception that they don't respect the ultimate thoughtfulness of their constituents.
So, senators, vote on the proposed amendment. Vote "no," we say. But vote, and count on Minnesotans to be thoughtful, either way.



1. It's a solution in search of a problem. There's no evidence that gay marriage is a threat to anybody.

2. It endorses, implicitly at least, a religion. That should be left to, and in, our churches.

3. Although there are good, honest people who feel passionately that such an amendment should pass, it's nonetheless part of a much more cynical electoral ploy by politicians.

4. By limiting access to the benefits of civil society, it limits liberty.