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Editorial: Let Minnesotans vote on same-sex marriage

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There’s no denying the momentum building since November, when an amendment was defeated that would have constitutionally – and pretty much permanently – banned gay marriage in Minnesota and when DFLers were swept into control of both the state House and Senate, joining a DFL governor.

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This is the year, gay-marriage advocates started trumpeting. And it just may be. It’s probably not now or never, but 2013 has to be seen as the best chance yet, after so many years of falling short, to legalize same-sex marriage in the Gopher State. So bills were written to do just that. Rallies and marches were held by both sides.

But not so fast.

Last fall’s vote was hardly a mandate from the people in support of gay marriage. There were many good reasons for Minnesotans to reject the proposal, starting with how inappropriate it was. Constitutions are about the structuring of government; they’re big-picture, and they don’t change often or easily. The marriage amendment wasn’t a constitutional issue. No matter how any voter felt about gay marriage, the way the amendment proposal was treating our constitution was reason enough for rejection.

Another reason was the prospect that a yes vote would have pretty much ended the conversation about same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Anyone with an open mind can agree it’s a conversation that should just be beginning.

And it’s a conversation that demands to be had beyond St. Paul and the Legislature’s committee meetings. The issue demands a thorough statewide conversation – followed by a statewide vote this fall. Let the people decide. All the people. Not just an elected majority of politicians. Then whatever the people decide can be more easily accepted, whether done so while cheering or screaming.

How would the state vote? It’s too close – or too early – to call, which is yet another good reason for the DFL-controlled Legislature to refrain from attempting to ram it through. The most recent statewide poll – conducted Feb. 25-27 –found only 38 percent support for overturning state law and legalizing gay marriage. But only 53 percent support the current law. Nearly 10 percent of Minnesotans haven’t made up their minds. They deserve time to figure it out. A robust and civil debate preceding a public vote would help.

Lawmakers could benefit from a thorough airing of pros and cons, too. The DFL may be in control, but, “Many rural Democrats do not support gay marriage, (leaving) House and Senate votes in doubt,” as Forum News Service capitol correspondent Don Davis reported last week from St. Paul.

“Clearly, the amendment vote (last fall) wasn’t a green light for same-sex marriage, and legislators would be wrong to see it that way,” public policy commentator Scott Johnson of St. Paul wrote at powerlineblog.com.

The light seems to be more yellow than green, and DFL-majority lawmakers can resist the temptation to punch the gas.

DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE

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