Listen: TR5233 Marriage Amendment Folo (Yuen)

MPR’s Laura Yuen reports on Minnesotans rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made marriage only between a man and a woman. It also made the state the only one in the nation to defeat a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.


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SPEAKER 1: It's 5:51, and we continue with All Things Considered. When Minnesotans rejected the marriage amendment yesterday, it was a statement on who we are as a state, or was it simply a matter of timing? The coalition that rallied against the ballot measure says it was likely a combination of both. Laura Yuen explains how Minnesota became the only state to defeat a constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.

LAURA YUEN: 30 other states have passed similar ballot measures banning same-sex marriage. Somehow, Minnesota bucked the trend. That's largely because of the work of Minnesotans United for All Families, the behemoth group spanning 40 offices and 28,000 volunteers. Campaign manager Richard Carlbom says the group sensed it could tap into a collective idea on what it means to be Minnesotan.

RICHARD CARLBOM: Having the government come in and tell you who you can love is something that is just absolutely counter to our sense as Minnesotans. And treating our neighbors the way we want to be treated is a core value.

LAURA YUEN: The ballot measure received just shy of 48% of the vote. It needed a majority to win. Carlbom says there's no doubt that some of the no votes came from people who aren't ready to accept same-sex marriage, but he thinks they were swayed by the outpouring of voices from elected officials, faith leaders, business executives, regular folks, and a certain Viking, Chris Kluwe.

RICHARD CARLBOM: Beyond the words that he chose to use, so much of what he said, I believe connected with other straight men who are football-loving guys just like me, but otherwise probably wouldn't connect with gay people.

LAURA YUEN: Minnesotans United made sure to put straight couples, including Catholic republicans, front and center in its ad campaign. With $10 million in its war chest, the coalition paid for TV commercials like this.

SPEAKER 2: We had a gay couple live in our neighborhood. They had adopted a little son, and they were the most wonderful neighbors. It taught all of us in our little suburban world--

LAURA YUEN: Carlbom Who was gay and engaged to be married, says it was essential to rely on straight allies to persuade voters who were torn about the issue.

RICHARD CARLBOM: We needed to make sure that they saw in the commercials people that they identified with, people like them, who at one time were conflicted and had gone on a journey from being conflicted and maybe even a yes voter to eventually deciding to vote no.

LAURA YUEN: Those no votes came from not only DFL strongholds such as Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth, but also from suburbs widely seen as Republican territory, including those in Washington and Dakota counties. Timing also appeared to be on the side of Amendment opponents. Carlbom says Minnesota went to the polls when opposition to same-sex marriage has dramatically decreased, even since the last presidential election.

RICHARD CARLBOM: This country has moved so far on this question of who should have the freedom to marry in the last four years that I do believe that the timing of this in 2012 has a huge impact on our ability to be the first state.

LAURA YUEN: Voters demonstrated growing acceptance of gay marriage in other states, too. Maine and Maryland yesterday became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. Washington voters also went to the polls on a similar measure, but it was still too early to call the results. Amendment supporters in Minnesota conceded their defeat this morning. Chuck Darrell is with Minnesota for Marriage, the group who led the Vote Yes Fight.

CHUCK DARELL: We're very disappointed in the outcome, but we don't have any regrets in making the effort. I think we were swimming against a powerful tide that swept the nation. And our opponents were able to raise considerably more resources.

LAURA YUEN: Darrell says his group will remain vigilant and revive what he calls a culture of marriage in the state. He's convinced that the other side will try to legalize same-sex marriage in the coming year. The Minnesota Catholic Conference issued a statement today saying its position in favor of the amendment, quote, "Was never anti-anyone, but for marriage." The group said it will continue defending the right of all children to be born into a family with a married mother and father. Another Amendment supporter, the Reverend Jerry McAfee, says he believes gay marriage is inevitable and notes that the DFL has regained control of the legislature.

JERRY MCAFEE: They took over the House and the Senate, and you got a Democratic governor. They're going to push it. If they don't push for it, that would be the surprise.

LAURA YUEN: Leaders with Minnesotans United for All Families say it's too early to S that conversation. But DFL State Representative Karen Clark of Minneapolis says she'll continue the fight.

KAREN CLARK: We're not done. I guess that's what I say. We just stopped something bad. We haven't taken the next step to really move forward yet. And that will be another test of whether or not those relationships we built are lasting.

And I'm hopeful. I'm very hopeful. If you want to know how I feel about it, I am very hopeful.

LAURA YUEN: Back in the '90s, she introduced the first bill to propose legalizing same-sex marriage. It didn't stand a chance then. Clark thinks after yesterday's historic vote, it may have better luck now. Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public. Radio News.

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