Marriage amendment division remains deep

Brown, Miller, Robinson

Minnesota’s hottest election topic continues to get hotter as Election Day nears.

Whether to amend the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage has generated the most debate and most money this election season, and a Thursday night debate did nothing to pave over differences.

“What we are talking about is marriage, just marriage,” Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson said.

But supporters of the proposed amendment said that having same-sex parents is not good for children.

“Children deserve having both a mother and a father,” President Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage said.

The debate about a subject that polls show nearly evenly divides Minnesotans was organized by Minnesota Public Radio and moderated by talk show host Kerri Miller in front of 365 people and a statewide radio audience.

Robinson is Episcopalian bishop in New Hampshire and the first openly gay bishop in his denomination. Brown works on organizing votes such as in Minnesota.

Much of the debate was about religion, with two clergymen on the panel.

The Bible says “thou shall not” marry someone of the same gender, said the Rev. Jerry McAfee of St. Paul’s New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. “The Bible is to me still the word of God.”

Robinson, however, said that when he marries two gay people, he relies on “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Brown said the overwhelming majority of clergy support a marriage only of a man and a woman.

But Sarah Walker, a board member for anti-amendment group Minnesotans United for All Families, said religions interpret the Bible differently.

She said the conversation about gay marriage needs to continue, but the amendment would stop such talk.

Brown said the constitutional amendment “would stop judges from redefining marriage,” but would not be permanent. A new Legislature could send another constitutional amendment to voters to allow gay marriage, he said.

While Brown and McAfee said gay marriage is not good, Robinson said that he has yet to meet anyone who has been harmed by his marriage of more than 20 years.

“We are 32 and zero,” Brown said in arguing that the public is on his side, referring to 32 states approving marriage definitions like on Tuesday’s Minnesota ballot.

The amendment would insert the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman into the state Constitution.

State law already contains that definition, but amendment supporters say legislators or judges could overturn state law at any time, something more difficult if the definition is in the Constitution.

With the law already in place, there would be no immediate change if Minnesotans approve the amendment Tuesday.

Most recent polls show the marriage question to be in a virtual tie. Fund-raising, however, is lopsided with anti-amendment group Minnesotans United for All Families collecting $11.2 million this year and amendment-supporting Minnesota for Marriage reporting $3.6 million in donations.

While those opposed to the amendment have picked up much of the newspaper editorial page support, amendment backers claim growing numbers of clergy on their side.

Highlighting religious leaders backing the amendment is the Rev. Billy Graham, whose worldwide evangelical ministry was based in Minneapolis 50 years.

“As a former resident with strong personal and ministry ties to the North Star State, I pray that the good people of Minnesota will show their support for God’s definition of marriage, between a man and a woman,” Graham said in a statement.

Pastors for Marriage added its voice Thursday, saying more than 500 Christian pastors and other leaders endorse the amendment. The pastors come from Assemblies of God, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic and other churches.

Those who oppose the amendment hosted more than 1,000 people, with 150 clergy, at a Thursday night worship service. After the service, clergy blessed a “Minnesota Votes No Tour” recreational vehicle that is to crisscross the state through Monday.

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The basic argument about whether to pass a proposed constitutional amendment about marriage centers on whether same-sex marriages should be allowed.

Even though passing the amendment would make no immediate change since Minnesota law already outlaws gay marriage, amendment supporters say they want to give the man-woman marriage definition more protection by putting it in the state Constitution.

Here are some arguments for and against gay marriage, gathered from procon.org and the two sides in the Minnesota debate.

For gay marriage

– Government should not dictate a definition of marriage, love should.

– The U.S. Constitution protects gay marriages by giving providing rights to liberty and equality.

– Without marriage, when a partner in a gay relationship dies or faces serious health issues, the other partner often is locked out of important decisions.

– A partner often cannot receive insurance benefits as part of a family plan without marriage.

– Same-sex marriage couples do as good a job of raising children as straight ones.

– Allowing the marriages would provide gay couples an easier path to adopting children.

Against gay marriage

– Children need a mother and a father.

– Many religions define marriage as between a man and a woman, with the main purpose of producing children.

– Professionals and businesses, even religious organizations, could risk government sanctions for not treating gay couples like straight couples.

– Making same-sex marriage legal would encourage schools to teach it as being equal to straight marriage.

– If gay marriages are allowed, could polygamy and other nontraditional relationships be far behind?

– Tax money should not be used to support gay marriages via marriage tax credits and other methods.

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