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Minnesota lawmakers begin debate Tuesday on a bill that could lead to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The constitution would state: "only the union of one man and one woman will be recognized as a marriage in Minnesota."

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(00:00:10) And good morning. Welcome (00:00:11) to midday on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten glad you could join us Nationwide debate over same-sex marriage officially comes to Minnesota today instead of house civil law committee. This afternoon will be holding a hearing on a proposed amendment to the State Constitution, which would effectively ban gay marriage in Minnesota. Now the state already has a law which bans gay marriage but supporters of the amendment say they're worried that the courts will find that law to be unconstitutional a constitutional amendment would prevent the courts from getting involved in the debate. Well during this our midday, we're going to talk with two key Advocates on either side of this issue and will be taking your questions as well. But first of all with a preview of today's hearing here's Minnesota public radio's Tom Scheck, the Committee hearing is expected to get plenty of attention from both (00:00:58) social conservatives who (00:01:00) The band and gay rights supporters who say the proposal isn't necessary Republican representative Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville is the author of (00:01:08) the proposed Constitutional (00:01:10) Amendment. She says she's taking the action because she doesn't want the Minnesota courts to define marriage the Minnesota Legislature passed the Defense of Marriage Act Banning gay marriage in 1997, but Holberg worries a court could consider the law unconstitutional. She says a constitutional amendment will prevent the courts from reversing the will of the legislature a (00:01:31) federal constitutional is very hard to pass and generally takes a number of years the likelihood of a court challenge in Minnesota is soon as soon as Massachusetts sets up their marriage certificate and or if there's a ruling in California or somewhere else that those marriage certificates are (00:01:48) valid Holberg says her proposal would (00:01:50) allow voters in the November election to decide whether marriage should only refer to a (00:01:55) union of a man and a woman the proposed amendment would also forbid domestic. Our civil unions, but she says it would allow the legislature to provide benefits to gay couples The Proposal needs the approval of both the House and Senate but doesn't require the governor's signature to get on the ballot. If a majority of those voting in the general election vote in favor of the amendment The Proposal would be included in the Minnesota Constitution that worries dfl representative Karen Clark of Minneapolis. She's the only openly gay member of the Minnesota house Clark says the gay lesbian bisexual and transgender Community considers the proposal a civil rights (00:02:32) issue. It's glbt families who are important part of our community here in Minnesota. So it's a very dangerous bill. It would enshrine bigotry in the Minnesota Constitution. And there's no way that should happen Clark puts her faith in the (00:02:48) courts, which she says have made historical decisions that were considered controversial at the time. She cites the integration of schools and interracial marriage as two examples Clark also says Which would allow gay couples to have access to their Partners Health and retiree benefits groups that support and oppose the amendment have been lobbying at the Grassroots level officials with the gay rights organization out front. Minnesota say they've (00:03:13) contacted their 2,000 (00:03:15) members Tom Prichard with a Minnesota family Council says his organization has sent out seven to eight thousand emails on the issue Pritchard says, it's one of the most important issues of the legislative session. I really see this issue is one which should necessarily be in the Constitution. The Constitution is the form of a government but I think marriage is so fundamental so essential to the well-being of our society. I think it warrants a constitutional amendment in these circumstances Pritchard and other supporters of the amendment say they're concerned that there could be legal challenges in Minnesota from gay couples who get married in other states, but Charlie rounds who owns a bar and restaurant and travel agency that cater to the gay community says Minnesota lawmakers should be concerned about Minnesota issues. Stop focusing on What's going on? In other states? We're talking about the constitution of the state of Minnesota and that is their responsibility. So if they're reacting to what's going on, in other states, they shouldn't be while the bill has received significant support from Republican house leadership. It hasn't yet received a hearing in the dfl controlled Senate. The Senate author says she intends to introduce the Senate companion later this week dfl Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson says the bill will receive a Committee hearing but says Senate dfl errs are hesitant to change the constitution on social issues. People are quite reluctant and reserved to change the Constitution. A document that's been with us a hundred and fifty plus years. It should be reserved for huge huge structural kinds of changes in Minnesota Johnson says he's also concerned that the proposal is an (00:04:52) attempt to attract conservative voters (00:04:54) to the polls in the November election at the Capitol. I'm Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio. Well Tom Prichard who you heard in Tom's story is a joined us here in the studio. Mr. Pritchard is the president of the Minnesota family Council and also joining us. This morning is Andrew who is the executive director of out front Minnesota the group that is organizing opposition to the proposed Constitutional Amendment as always we invite you to join our conversation. If you have a question or a comment about the proposed Constitutional Amendment, essentially Banning gay marriage, give us a call here Twin City area number is 6512276 thousand 6512276 thousand outside the Twin Cities. Our toll free number is 1-800-218-4243. Submit your question online. Just go to our website, Minnesota Public Radio dot org and then click on some to question and group Tom Richard. Thank you for joining us today. Appreciate it. Good to be with you Gary Tom Prichard. Let me start with you a couple of questions here. Why in your mind is it's so essential that we ban same-sex marriages in Minnesota. Well, I think we're concerned that somebody there's two questions here really who is going to Define what marriage is and secondly what is the definition of marriage and marriage has always been from time Immortal a man and a woman and the situation running into now is the courts are jumping in and saying no that's not right. We're going to say that in Massachusetts for instance for people said they're going to overturn the marriage laws of those States and we're saying this is an issue which belongs in the legislature let the legislators aside. We shouldn't allow the courts to intervene and rewrite those laws. Well, so in other words, is it is it merely a procedural thing in your mind. So, A legislature said hey, this is fine it be okay with you know, it wouldn't but I think that's the reason you've got an impetus for a marriage amendment is because we're concerned about the courts. Now if you get to the issue of What is marriage marriage is between a man and woman. It's our founding fathers talked about the laws of nature and Nature's God and I think it's marriage is foundational to a healthy Society a man and woman in a lifelong committed relationship raising children is the foundation the Bedrock of our society and we feel that if you attempt to redefine that you're going to be unleashing unmitigated social chaos in society because we see what's happening with the breakdown of marriage and family now and if we redefine it, I think will render the institution meaningless because you won't be able to stop with to same-sex couples or individuals. You'll what about a polygamous or other arrangements. So we think that we need to protect and guard that man-woman relationship. Hmm. Are you a posed just to the changing of the definition of Rage or are you also opposed to granting the benefits of marriage under a different name to same-sex couples? We would oppose that too because that's all all you've done is you've just changed the word and yet you're giving that same status before the law. So we would be concerned about that as well and Groot. Are you folks primarily? Well would a civil union type situation be okay in your mind or are you are you is it gay marriage or nothing? (00:08:11) You know, it's a good question and I would answer that question differently five years ago that I am now I think civil unions have been a great thing for our community as kind of a stepping stone. They've been a way for people to get used to same-sex couples and understanding that the world is not going to fall apart when people actually have legal marriage rights, but at this point in time, I would have to say that the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision was really good in talking about separate is not equal civil unions are not marriage. They're different things and they have different statuses and by saying one group of people has civil unions and one group of people has marriage. That's just it's just creating two classes. I think of relationships in this country. I don't think it's good for this country. In addition to that marriage as an institution has portable that means it goes from state to state civil union in Vermont is not portable and and probably wouldn't be if it were in other states as well. So that creates really a problem for people who are going to move because of jobs or school or whatever. So I just think it's not the solution to the problem but it is a step on the way (00:09:17) marriage is a real fundamental institution in society. Is it is this the kind of thing that should be left to judges or for that matter the legislature to define (00:09:31) marriage is fundamental and I would agree with what Tom said about it being a really an important part of the society. We live in a really important fundamental piece of our I think in this country states, of course have made the decisions about who gets married and what age they get married and to whom but there are times when the courts have to step in and determine whether a state's laws actually constitutional and that certainly happened in the loving versus Virginia case in the 60s in which the Supreme Court said, you can't have laws that don't allow people of different races to marry. That's not right according to our Constitution and at that time a lot of the arguments used against interracial marriages are the same kinds of arguments being used now against same-sex marriages (00:10:16) one other question for you and a group. Do you get the sense that this is this push for gay marriage is going too fast for the average Minnesotan that is to say that it's it seems like this this whole debate has has moved much quicker than most people are comfortable (00:10:39) with Yeah, I think it has gone really fast. And that's one of the reasons why it out for Minnesota. We have not proposed any legislation to allow for same-sex marriage because we think that it's an issue that needs more conversation. It needs more discussion in the state of Minnesota. So the issue has come up very quickly and I might add that it is not gay rights activists only who are pushing that's it's also being pushed really by Ultra conservatives who want to use it politically and I think that's one of the things that's going on here. I think that's important to remember. I have a great deal of faith in the citizens of Minnesota. I also do by the way in the Judiciary and I think that over time the citizens of Minnesota will understand this issue in a different way than they do today. It's new it's very new and it's very hard to change things and there is not a lot of good information out there. And so I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done and talking about the issue. So on one hand, I really appreciate the chance to have this conversation. (00:11:38) Let me ask both of you this and I want to get to listener questions or a lots of them setting setting religion aside for a moment. Why is the institution of marriage important to a civil society or is it I mean, we it's been there for a long time but why is it considered to be important to the Civil Society Tom? It's just it's the nature. It's the nature of our society the way God created things that children need to be raised with a mother and a father not only through procreation but the the socialization the raising those children and it's just the way the society has been structured in created and we feel that I think we've seen experiments where we've tried to deviate from that standard and we've had unmitigated social problems. The notion that for instance children don't need fathers in their lives has been an utter disaster and we've seen that experiment frankly with welfare policies over the last 40 years. Breakdown of the family children do have all sorts of problems when they don't have fathers in their lives. For instance. There are so many married couples who don't have children. What role does the state if they have to do is what are they have to say about a marriage that does not involve children. Well, I think there's a couple things one of those families could have children. So the potential is there but also I think the second purpose of marriage is the bonding of a man and woman in a lifelong relationship and and it people who do better in marriage relationships. And I think that's another aspect that marriage really fulfills a vital role as that bonding of a man and woman. There's a complimentary nuts not only biologically but just our natures and that's where people come together and you know, if you take religious language, you know the become one flesh, but there's also clear evidence from society and social evidence that that's true and group (00:13:36) Yeah, couple things. First of all, we're talking here about civil marriage not religious. So let's just remember that there are different points of view about what the religious interpretation is here. So I just want to remind people of that. Secondly, I do think that families and I would reframe this a little bit are a fundamental part of the society that we live in they are the individual units in which people live together they share resources and they love each other and those units are critical I think to people feeling safe and secure in the world and being able to be educated and being able to live in the world. So I think the family is a critical unit two people loving each other I think is an important aspect of that family and certainly there are families in which there are not two parents. There's one parent and the family works very well. So to sort of assume that any single parent families are in crisis and terrible I think is really not fair to a whole sector of people out there who are raising children on their own but I do think that the family as a unit is an important piece for people and it is about the love the mutual respect and Sharing of resources that's critical here. I think for folks. I also want to just stick one other thing in here that I think is important for people to hear there is evidence that not that throughout history a marriage of one man and one woman is not the only construct that has played out around the world. In fact today in the world. There are marriages are there are relationships in which there are multiple couples or multiple people, which is not what I'm advocating don't want to Advocate. Actually. I don't believe in it but it does happen. In fact in our own country. The Mormon church has advocated that there is also evidence. In fact that there have been relationships over historic periods between two men and two women which were regarded as married couple. So there's evidence about that too. And I think it's important for people to get educated about that and and really learn about you know, what are the different things that have happened with marriage over time marriage is an evolving institution in this country and around the world and that's what we're seeing. Today is another Ellucian we've seen many Evolutions over the years and I think it's important to to look at it that rate way rather to say that this is a stagnant institution over thousands of years because that's just not (00:15:50) true Tom Prichard. I want to give you an opportunity to comment on that marriage as an immutable institution over time. Well at the core of marriage has always been a man and woman relationship, you've had polygamous relationships, but you've always had that man-woman relationship so that Central I think you look at throughout history, but an runs into a problem when she talks about loving committed relationships, even for civil unions. Well, there's lots of loving committed relationship their father for their child or a mother for her child Grandparents were grandchildren friends who aren't gay or lesbian. They are in oftentimes committed loving relationships. Why would we just allow two individuals that say even for civil union or even further definition of marriage to be limited to two homosexual individuals? Why not allow multiple relationships once you change the definition Mission of marriage from a man and woman to a quote loving committed relationship. I think you ultimately render the definition meaningless because it can be any any sort of grouping potentially and I think that just unleashes incredible confusion and Chaos Anna and our social structure and for an to say that you know that it does really matter the structure she has to answer the question. Well who's dispensable a mother and a father do children not need a mother or not a father if both of them aren't important and we're talking here about the norm the standard the ideal for society. That's what the law should be addressing. Obviously there's bad marriages and there's people who aren't doing good in those situations, but we're to asking what is the standard for the rest of society and that's the issue the legislature needs to be looking. (00:17:27) Let me remind you very briefly quickly that what we're talking about here is the relationship between two consenting adults of the same gender who choose to make a loving lifelong commitment to each other. Other that's what we're talking about not talking about anything else here in terms of same-sex marriage. That's what we're talking about. And that is what your proposal would have bar in Minnesota in the Constitution discrimination in the Constitution first time ever. It's not right for a (00:17:54) cost. Anybody can get married. It's not an issue of discrimination. You just can't marry you can't redefine institution because you don't like what it says, but anybody can get married right now, if you're the legal age, it just can't marry somebody the same sex or multiple people Kim my your question for our guest, please. Yes, I'd like to State first of all that I'm not gay. However, I fully support the rights of two people who wish to form a partnership to do so in the same way that married people do and I'd like to bring to your attention that Bob Barr Newt Gingrich Henry Hyde in the US Congress brought the Defense of Marriage Act several years ago, and these are three prime examples of triple divorce adult or adulterers and doesn't it occur to you that this debate this whole debate about not allowing gay people. Mary is just steeped in hypocrisy and it's occurs to me that people who are worried about their own marriage that that would be harmed by gay marriage should look in the mirror and clean their own houses first adhere to their own religious principles and let others adhere to there's the utter hypocrisy of this whole debate is astonishing and I you know, if we're going to make these standards about marriage then why don't we make laws against divorce bring criminal penalties for adultery such as Newt Gingrich Henry Hyde and Bob Barr who are kind of the standard bearers of the Republican right in the religious, right? You know, I mean the the hypocrisy in the whole thing is astonishing Tom Prichard, I would agree entirely with your listener that marriage there's problems in marriage and we would support strengthening divorce laws. We think no-fault divorce has been an unmitigated disaster in our society a basically says you can walk away from a 30-year marriage unilaterally easier than you can a $500 bid. Agreement and so we have problems with the divorce laws, but our view is is you've got problems there with the breakdown of marriage marriage is already I think in the state of Crisis, but if you now attempt to redefine the basic institution of marriage, I think you're going to unleash all sorts of additional problems. In fact studies coming out of Scandinavia where they have had recognition for gay relationships show that it's caused marriage to collapse even more because you separated the notion of raising children parenting from the marriage relationship and I think it it doesn't at all but that's happening already. Is it not? Oh, yeah, but it but but they the the evidence out of Sweden is the the gay recognition has only deepened the the decline of marriage precipitously and I think it's because you've redefined this basic understanding of of society the basic institution and separated the notion of marriage from the raising of children and the notion that children. Anita mother and a father and a Groot if you Tinker with the traditional definition, are you in your mind essentially undermining the institution itself over time? (00:20:55) No, I think that first of all, let's not call it a traditional definition. I think we don't know what a traditional definition is there a lot of anthropologists and (00:21:03) historians call. I mean, but it and they're not (00:21:05) conservative what's called a (00:21:06) conservative but in the United States, it has traditionally been defined as a man and a woman that's true. I think that's fair this (00:21:13) country. I think that's fair to so in the United States that has but no I don't think so. I mean, I think there's a lot of alarm right now about what this will mean. Well, let me say a couple things about that when we change the definition of marriage in this country to say that people of different races could marry that did not harm marriage when we when we when we look at the number of same-sex couples who are already in relationships for 15, 20 30 40 years there. Those relationships they're basically functioning as married couples without civil recognition that is not harming marriage in this country marriages is according to mr. Pritchards perspective is in trouble. I don't know that it's in trouble. I think it's changing pretty dramatically but it has been for the last 40 years before we even talked about same-sex marriage to say we need to reform had a heterosexual marriage by not allowing same-sex marriage doesn't actually even make sense to me. It's sort of like saying there's a drug problem in Minneapolis and let's crack down in st. Paul. They're different things. So it they don't relate to each other. I don't think and I don't think the arguments made really are very helpful in that way. I do think that the marriage the institution of marriage will change but I think it will get better and stronger (00:22:28) Christine from Rochester sent in an online questionnaire or comment I guess she says I'm getting married next month and feel it as a sacred bond between a man and a woman All same-sex unions are different name, but give the same (00:22:44) benefits. Well, you know, that's a good step. I think that people who are getting married. I'm glad that she thinks of her marriage is a sacred Bond because I think it is and I'm glad that she thinks people same-sex relationships ought to have some kind of benefit for that and for that I'm grateful. I'm glad that she thinks that I would want to call that marriage and we'll see what evolves over time but at this point in time, I do appreciate your sentiments in comments (00:23:10) Tom Prichard. Why would you deny folks who are in a loving stable relationship the benefits of the legal benefits that accrue to married people as long as it's it is not called marriage and thus it wouldn't seem like it would in any way shape or form affect the institution of marriage that you say you're concerned about. Well there again, their goal is and as stated here is not just civil unions. It's just a stepping stone to marriage. So I think we need to debate that and look at that, but I would argue that those Unions would be discriminatory against other people in committed relationships, whether as I mentioned before a grandparent and a grandchild a parent and an adult child or any of those other relationships and I would ask why should we not recognize those relationships where there is not marriage occurring and Grant them civil union benefits. And so I think the goal here is to ultimately as an has said is to redefine marriage and I don't believe we can do that and and be its ultimate we can't do that even if the law was to be changed. It's like, okay, we're going to pass a law saying a cat is now going to be a dog. Well, it doesn't change it the nature of the institution because it's the way we are wired. It's the way nature is that's the way God created things and I think when we move away from that we result in that sorts of all sorts of social problems and and my view of civil unions is that's just a backdoor way to get to to marriage and and it's just Marriage by another name in terms of the way the state would review it Lawrence. So your question, please. Yeah. I'm a pastor in the mainline denominations Protestant denomination. I won't mention it because really my view doesn't necessarily reflect my denominational point of view, but as I read the Bible, I see that marriage is mutable. It changes. Its somebody was going to read the Bible with the idea that one man one woman defined marriage. They certainly would get very confused just in Genesis because there's lots of polygamy and lots of things going on and my thinking is that marriage changes over the years, and it certainly has changed a lot. I would say that people wouldn't be very happy with some of the biblical concepts of marriage where a woman is basically property of the man and is transferred from the father to the groom, and I think we've made good changes in the institution of chain of marriage. Thanks a lot. I just want to challenge. Mr. Pritchard, I would say if you I think the Bible is pretty clear. I mean obviously does The Smiling man have any role in this debate you think well, I think religion does because religion answers those deeper questions of the purpose and meaning of life and the origins and why why is there why is it we observe in nature that a man and woman in a lifelong relationship is so important and and and our laws ultimately rooted in those deeper principles moral principles. People say, well, you got to keep religion out of this. Well, the law that we should not be legislating morality or religion. Well, if you say that then you got to throw out a lot of our laws against murder rape incest because they all have a religious Foundation moral foundation. And so I think inherently more moral but not necessarily religious. Well, ultimately, I think at the root of morality is religious perspective. There's a philosophical perspective and operate But certain philosophical worldview. She uses the word evolving things are evolving. I don't think things are evolving. I think they're probably deteriorating or breaking down just as the law of gravity doesn't evolve its it's the way things are there's laws, which govern Society human life are interactions and when we honor those and recognize those and Implement them in our lives things go better for us. So I think religion morality addresses those deeper questions of why and what's the purpose of what is the purpose of marriage? What is the instant? Why is that and those are answered philosophically and from a religious perspective ultimately and a good I wanted to give you an opportunity to comment on this before we break for news. What role if any do you think religion should play in this (00:27:33) debate? This is should not have a role a religion should not have a role in this debate. This is about civil marriage. It's about the separation of church and state if religious groups do not want to marry same-sex couples. They shouldn't be forced to and they shouldn't But in this case we are not talking about religion. We're talking about government. There are religious traditions and religious people who believe that same-sex marriage is not only moral but is a good idea for the society. So there is religious debate about this. It's in and to approve this because of someone's interpretation or belief and the Bible when there are others who disagree with that is just is just wrong in the society and that's not how we operate. (00:28:13) We're talking a shower about whether Minnesota should be voting on a Constitutional Amendment which would effectively ban gay marriage in the state of Minnesota. Minnesota house committee will take up that issue this afternoon and previewing that debate today joining us here in the studio to preview that debate Tom Prichard who is the president of the Minnesota family Council and and Degroot who is the executive director of out front Minnesota. We have a full Bank of callers it perhaps if you'd like to send in a question the easiest way to do that right now would be online go to our website. Sort of public radio dot org and click on send a question. We'll get to more of your questions here in a couple (00:28:51) minutes programming is supported by Ecolab dedicated to improving cleaning and sanitation standards for leading Hospitality Healthcare and food processing customers worldwide on the web at (00:29:04) hon David Malpass on the next all things considered the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe opens a grocery store that offers culture along with bread and milk (00:29:13) the aisles. For example, they're numbered one through one through six and one number one for example is basic. That means number one. So the Ojibwe has can see that we're trying to have an identity here all things considered weekdays at 3:00 on Minnesota Public Radio. (00:29:33) By the way, today's programming is sponsored in part by the Minnesota public radio's want public radio winemakers dinner committee. Thanking Northland networks Inc for their promotional support of this year's event. Let's catch up on the latest headlines. Here's a credit Cunningham (00:29:48) gotta thank you Gary. Good morning. A Virginia judge has sentenced John Allen Muhammad to death today for his role in the Washington DC area sniper shootings, the judge turned aside a plea from Muhammad's lawyers to spare his life. He ordered Muhammad executed on October 14, but that date likely will be postponed to allow for appeals doctors in Washington. Say John Ashcroft condition has improved enough for them to operate they plan to start surgery this hour to remove the Attorney. General's gallbladder Ashcroft was hospitalized last week with a pancreas inflammation caused by a gallstone. He will likely spend at least another week in the hospital to recover from the surgery Democrats and four southern states are making their presidential choices today. The contests are in, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. There are 465 delegates up for grabs today officials at the University of California in Los Angeles acknowledge that parts of bodies donated for medical research have been sold the school apologized yesterday for the failure in oversight. Meanwhile donor families have filed a lawsuit against the school in Regional news. Governor pawlenty has delayed the announcement of his Stadium proposal administrative officials had hoped this week to introduce a plan for authorizing new twins and Viking stadiums. But a plenty spokesman says next week is more likely Hastings base. Tom Thumb Food Markets is confirming it is closing more than 100 stores in Minnesota. The company's Chief Financial Officer says all of Tom Thumb's corporate owned stores have closed and will not be reopened company officials have not said why the chain is closing the forecast for Minnesota today calls for clear to partly cloudy skies around the region with high temperatures ranging from 35 to near 45 degrees right now Bemidji. It's sunny and 36 Moorhead reports Fair skies and 36 skies are The in Worthington and 37 and in the Twin Cities mostly sunny skies a temperature of 37 degrees Gary. That's a look at the latest news. All (00:31:40) right. Thanks Greta 22 minutes before twelve. This is midday in Minnesota Public Radio over the noon hour alive National Press Club luncheon. Today. We're going to hear from the head of the American civil liberties Union. The ACLU is upset about the Detention of prisoners at Guantanamo. And a number of other issues. They say that civil liberties in this country are being trampled by the war on terror and we'll hear from the head of the ACLU over the noon hour today. And of course, he'll be quizzed by people at the Press Club. So that will be at noon this hour we are previewing what should be a very interesting discussion in the state of Minnesota, which officially begins this afternoon a Minnesota house committee will be holding its first hearing on a proposed Constitutional Amendment which would effectively ban gay marriages in the state of Minnesota joining us here in the studio and grew who is the executive director of out front? Soda and Tom Prichard who is the president of the Minnesota family Council full Bank of callers with questions for our guests and Judith here next. Go ahead place. Yes, this is Judas in st. Paul and I have a question for an I'm rather alarmed at the discussion about morality that's going on as opposed to we're supposed to be talking about the Constitution and amending the Constitution which is a legal document and I would like to ask and particularly about some of the rights and civil rights. That would be changed. I am a lesbian and I do resent the discussion about the morality issue in depth finding a family. I think the same kind of logic happened in many years ago and disallowing legally interracial marriages and I think Same argument is going on now in a different way. So (00:33:37) thank you Judith for bringing it back to that point which I think is really important here to remind people that what were debating today and what we've been talking about. This whole time is a Constitutional Amendment which has been proposed which would if past band the potential of same-sex marriage ever in Minnesota. And in fact, the law is written in such a way right now that we've looked at that it could be an civil unions or any other kind of legal recognition of same-sex relationships. So that's really what we're talking about. It's difficult to have that discussion without also talking about same-sex marriage because certainly that you know, it brings up that issue. But right now we're really talking about a constitutional amendment. Let me just say a couple things about this if this Constitutional Amendment passes, it would be the first time in the state of Minnesota that discrimination is codified in our Constitution and Constitutions are not meant for that purpose. Constitutions are always about protecting rights not taking rights away there about protecting Liberty not taking away people's freedom or Liberty and this amendment does exactly the opposite of what constitutions were intended to do. So, I think that that people one of the things to do here when we're thinking about this is to keep our mind in our eyes on what this is about if people vote against this Constitutional Amendment that does not necessarily mean that they're voting for same-sex marriage what it means is that they think that this is an inappropriate way to use this constitution. It is really reordering our Constitution and I think that that's the critical piece here. My question would be to people is where do we stop? You know, if we start taking away these rights whoo-hoo-hoo other who what other people's rights should we take away how else should we codify what we don't like her what one group of people doesn't believe in and I think The an important part of the debate so Judith. Thanks for bringing us back to that because I think I think that's something we need to keep focused on here (00:35:40) Tom Prichard. What about the idea of writing what amounts to discriminatory language into the state constitution? Well, I think Ann's got a problem because the vast majority of minnesotans don't support gay marriage. And obviously you would need to frame it in a way to hopefully gauge their support to oppose a marriage Amendment, but I think there's a couple things one is this is not discrimination. Anybody can get marriage now who would like to get married you just can't marry somebody of the same sex or multiple people. This is not a band forever. We had the lottery in our Constitution and when the state was founded back in 1858 the legislature through the amendment process change that so that can be done it in the future as well. If the people deem it appropriate and then finally by not acting we are in a sense allowing very likely or I'm very concerned that we're going to be allowing judges. To be making this decision for us not the people of Minnesota. And this is all timidly the Democratic process is allowing the people decide the definition of marriage not just a handful of judges and we are not putting discrimination in we're we're allowing the definition that the people decide for marriage one-man woman putting that in the Constitution were not discriminating because anybody can get married as I've said is this debate comparable to the Civil Rights debate involving African-Americans. Should this be should these two things be seen in the same way? (00:37:06) Well, I think that there are some similarities but they are different and they have different routes and I don't think we should just say that the same because there are many significant differences here, but it is really similar to the debate about who's allowed to be married to whom and one of those questions had to do with interracial marriages, which was a raging debate in the 40s 50s and 60s in this country. So it's more similar to that but I don't want to say that it's the same as Black civil rights movement because they're very they're very different routes here. And I think that's important to (00:37:37) acknowledge interracial marriage Tom Prichard used to be illegal in many parts of the United States. It was then thrown out is deemed to be unconstitutional by judges and Society survived. Well, you've got a fundamental different question. I certainly supported overturning that ban on interracial marriage, but what you've got here is an effort to redefine the basic nature of marriage a man and woman we weren't asking that question with interracial is just whether people of opposite different racial skin color could basically Mary immutable traits, but here you've got your asking for a fundamental redefinition and I mean that does tie into the civil rights movement and it's interesting on this debate. It's sometimes cast as a liberal conservative, but that's not true. I mean you had the late senator Paul wellstone support the Defense of Marriage Act you had President Clinton and now just recently you had Jesse Jackson, come on say yeah. This is not a civil rights issue. (00:38:36) And you know, let me just just counter something that's has been saying the whole time which is that this change is fundamental nature of marriage. I don't agree with that. I think marriage is about a loving relationship between two people and it is certainly been our tradition in the United States up until this point of time in this country as the United States not in terms of native people that it is a marriage between one man and one woman, but it is not the only way to think about marriage. We're not talking about changing the institution we're talking about really it's changing the fundamental nature. We're talking about adding to the institution of marriage and adding the Civil benefits and obligations of marriage for same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples and those same sex couples who have a fundamental love and commitment and long-term relationship with each other. That's not really fundamentally different than a relationship between a man and woman and I know Tom and I disagree with that but they're that it is about love and let's not forget that and commitment. (00:39:44) Is there any boundary and Degroot where you would say? Well, we we want the following people to be married. But at some point we can't have these people be called married people (00:39:58) for from my perspective at this moment in time. What we're talking about is extending civil marriage benefits to two people consenting adults of the same gender. That's what we're talking about here. But what's in the future someone else brings up some other kind of extension of marriage benefits. Then I think that that would be a debate for us to have now. I think that to assume or to say as Tom has said that oh, well, why can't it be a mom and a son or two siblings to me? That's an absurd argument. They have a familial Relationship now should there be rights in that relationship? That's maybe a different thing. But from my perspective what we're talking about here is the loving committed relationship between two people of the same gender and extending the Civil benefits that people of the opposite sex have to those people and that's what we're talking about. And that's that's what we're talking about here. If something comes up in the future we need to talk about that, but that's not what we're talking about. Now. Let's not obscure, you know, make this issue what it (00:41:00) isn't. Well, I think Gary you've really hit on something that when an keeps talking about a loving committed relationship. Well, there's lots of loving committed relationships out there which aren't same sex or gay lesbian relationships. And I think you're opening the door to a recognition of all sorts of things. We are already are seeing a push for polygamous relationships. And so I think once you step away from that man-woman relationship, you're opening the door to all those things the it's very logical and reasonable to say why can't two people get married then They are members of the same family. I think we have to address those issues now and I think and is opening the door in the push for gay marriage is opening the door and that needs to be examined now because I think logically that it definitely will extend that way. We have an online question from joy in Hopkins. So we touched on this earlier but probably worth going back to let's see Joyce has a why why not just remove marriage from the laws and leave that to the churches and have civil unions be used in government the separating church and state senator Dayton said the other day if marriage is an institution created by God leave marriage to God. (00:42:19) Now that's an interesting thought and she is not the first person. I've heard that from certainly that is an interesting debate. I think would we ought to have in those in our community and determine whether or not that makes sense or what makes sense here. Unfortunately, if we have this Constitutional Amendment as it is being proposed, it really will cut off a lot of that discussion and one of the things that I think is most important here is that we are having a conversation about marriage relationships about civil unions about same-sex relationships. And so I think that there's lots of ways to think about this and lots of ways to come to some kind of answer here so I would not want to close the door, but at this point in time, it looks like marriage is going to be continued to be the Civil word that people use and we should not have two classifications of legal (00:43:08) relationships. I'm Richard a couple thoughts one is the the comment or suggestion there is what basically I think Senator Dayton was pushing and he's really positioned himself as the Advocate for redefining marriage in my view in the state but I think a debate is good on this and I think it is been healthy and it's been interesting in Massachusetts for instance, which is arguably a more liberal State than Minnesota the more discussion. The more people are pulling back from the whole gay marriage notion and I think they're starting to see the implications of that and the fact is if you have a constitution amendment that doesn't preclude any debate in discussion that can go on always and it will and I think an if they feel so strongly about gay marriage, they should offer a bill in the legislature saying we want this and let the debate continued their but don't do an end run around the will of the vast majority of the people and say letting some judges thumb their nose at the will of the people on this and I think that's that's what's ultimately the motivation for this amendment right now is we're concerned. The judges are going to side not the people of Minnesota. Well, (00:44:14) let's remember judges in the state by and large are elected people so they are elected. By the people of this state I am constantly amazed at the cynicism about the Judiciary that I continue to hear Tom from you and other people who are conservatives. I find it actually quite appalling to have that kind of attitude about this third branch of government. That is really I think critical and I think by and large it does a very good job, that's not to say there aren't activist judges aren't to say there's not bad decisions. But the reality is the Judiciary as a whole is a good body in this state and other places. So it is always really a surprise to me. I think what's really in at issue here is redefining the Constitution and reconstructing what the Constitution is for. And I think that's the thing that really is at issue here that people ought to be thinking about we do not use the Constitution for this type of purpose. We haven't and there are many notable conservatives who have also said what I'm saying right now, you know, they Ellen sent former Senator Alan Simpson columnist David Broder and others Bar, in fact who is now being retained by the ACLU to argue this this issue at least on the federal level? So to talk to talk about this we need to really understand that there's an effort here on the part of some people to redefine the constitution of the state of Minnesota. And I think that's very (00:45:36) dangerous. I think exactly that's the point we have a few judges redefining the Constitution. The Constitution is the law that has been set up to govern our nation. And when you have a few judges remaking the law according to their own personal preferences and desires you've got problems. I mean you've got battle right now and people can fall on different sides of it. But the notion of a Ten Commandments Monument or voluntary prayer or in Minnesota, they found a right to abortion in the Constitution now obviously people can disagree on that issue but is it the the courts job to create a right in our constitution? I think if you ask the founders of the drafters of the Minnesota Constitution would they have thought they might have found gay marriage or would they have found a right to abortion? I think they'd say I think they just probably laugh at you to say that's that's ludicrous. And so the issue is who is defining the Constitution. Is that the people or in the legislature the drafters or is it a handful of Judges who think that they know what's best the (00:46:33) job of the Judiciary is to interpret the especially not to rewrite to interpret the Constitution are to interpret issues that come before it based on the Constitution. And that is what the Judiciary has done in Massachusetts. And I know you don't like the decision but it doesn't mean that's not what they did even former. Governor wild thinks that the decision was right in Massachusetts and he's a republican after reading it through several times. He really took, you know took it to heart and thought about it. So there are many people who think that what the Judiciary didn't they're both conservatives and liberals believe that what they did was really interpret a situation that came before them in light of the Constitution and that is what you dis year is do that is their (00:47:11) job well, and I guess I'd have to ask if we had gay marriage in this state and a group of Judges says said that You think marriage is between one man and one woman. We're not going to recognize gay marriage anymore. I think you'd be quite upset about that. I would be upset about it, but I (00:47:25) would want to know what their reasoning was. I would want to know how that decision came about and you know, I think that if they made the decision and there was a constitutional reason for it. I think we'd have to look at that. So frankly Tom, you know, I think that you know, you're really kind of raising a an issue that certainly isn't happening and certainly I'd be upset by that I just think it's unfair to write people out of the Constitution of the state of Minnesota the federal government, but what we're talking about here is judges who interpret issues that come before them according to a legal document the (00:47:57) Constitution. Let me ask both of you this is this an issue that would be better dealt with at the federal level as opposed to the state level or is this properly a state type issue that the feds should keep their nose out of it. Well, I think what's it's being forced on us as I've said I I prefer not to even have to go where we're going with this and in terms of a constitutional amendment because I think the people should decide this issue. Unfortunately, the courts have gotten into the place and I don't I have I have grave concerns even on the federal level. So I think invariably it's becoming a federal issue and the federal government's going to I think we need a Federal Constitution Amendment because the state Amendment were pushing will only address state judges. It won't address federal judges and I think ultimately the federal judges need to be addressed as well. And that's where a federal constitutional amendment comes in. (00:48:53) I think it's a state issue in the federal government. Keep out of it (00:48:57) the as everybody knows there have been a raft of marriage ceremonies around the state around the nation. I should say every day seems to be a new front breaking out in this in this debate. How has that affected and how is it likely to affect the debate here in Minnesota (00:49:18) and through Well, I think it is to affecting the debate already. I actually think it has a couple of effects one of them is it it certainly raises the issue more and people actually see it. So people can have conversations about it based on something that they see, you know, rather than something that's talked about. And so I think that that is a good thing. I also think it allows people in same-sex relationships to frame the debate and to really talk about the debate from our perspective and not only to hear about it from people who are opposed to same-sex marriage (00:49:49) Retreat. I think I agree with and it's raising the issue more but I think it's raising concerns more on the minds of the public that they see kind of almost a lawlessness that this is being forced on people people aren't even respecting the law these these Mayors and local officials. And so I think it's having a negative effect and I think even gay represented Barney Frank's at the same thing that I think it's in your face and I think people are reacting to it Elizabeth from Rochester has a longer comment here, but because we're short of time. Me cut to the chase of her question. Is this an issue of semantics and can we find what she describes as a happy middle ground? I don't think it is. I think that the word the concept of marriage carries with it not just a semantical meaning but I think very substantive meaning as well. And I think it as a result. It has the result it will impact dramatically the well-being of our society a few radically redefined marriage and marriage is as I've said the the foundation for a healthy society and I think it's going to only result in more problems. (00:50:57) I don't think it's only about semantics but I do think that gay rights activists out from Minnesota and other organizations have operated in the middle ground for a long time. We've talked about domestic partner benefits by employers. We've talked about civil unions marriage is something that we think while it is an ideal. We just think it's not the time for it. Now although you know, I think things are going to change quickly and I think Tom's aware of that and I think that is a little frightening to people but it is things are changing see what's happening in California and Massachusetts Etc. So those of us who are in the gay rights movement have been operating in that middle ground for a long time and will continue to if we need to (00:51:39) as I understand it according to Tom checks report at the beginning of the hour quoting representative. Who's sponsoring this the amendment that's been proposed would ban gay marriage and ab and she says also civil unions domestic Partnerships in the rest. Would you prefer a narrower Amendment? If one that makes it on the ballot tompa? Well, I think with the my understanding of the language and I've talked to the author as well is that it would prohibit the redefinition of marriage and also the prohibit the establishment of a identical parallel status what they call the legal equivalent in the amendment. So if they set up they created something which had all the Benefits and call it a civil union that would be prohibited but it wouldn't prohibit individual benefits domestic partner Arrangements, but they couldn't go the full extent of a marriage relationship. So the amendment is more limited. I think than some people think and the group. (00:52:33) Well, I think it's unclear what the amendment really says no matter what the author says. I think that she's not the one that would have to make a decision and for somebody who has talking about activist judges and judges being afraid the judges are going to make a decision. They don't like to leave it sort of open in some way. So that judges have to make a decision just seems odd to me but my opinion isn't and from the attorneys that we've consulted with and talk to use this is not clear. It's not clear what it means. It doesn't mean (00:52:58) and finally conventional wisdom holds that the house Minnesota house will approve this proposed amendment and that it probably will run into tough sledding in the Senate. Would you agree with that analysis and a group? (00:53:11) That's what it sounds like right now. I think you're exactly right about the house. I think the Senate is a little (00:53:15) unclear. God bless you. I think if it got a straight up or down vote it. As the Senate and I think it's an issue which won't go away and it's going to be political dynamite and I think a lot of senators will have to think about it coming back two years. Well, thanks so much for joining us today. Thank you Gary. Thank you. Very good discussion of a very contentious issue joining us here in the studio Tom Prichard who is the president of the Minnesota family Council and Andrew who is executive director of out front Minnesota getting us ready for a big Hearing in the Minnesota house today house committee taking up the issue of a proposed Constitutional Amendment, which would effectively ban gay marriage in the state of Minnesota news headlines are coming up next after the news live coverage of a Press Club luncheon with a head of the American civil liberties Union.


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