Separation of Church and State: Minnesota’s Vote on the Marriage Amendment

In addition to the election of the President, the November 7, 2012 General Election will address the marriage amendment in my home state, Minnesota.  Maine is also considering a similar amendment in this election.  In 1996, the federal Defense of Marriage Act passed which defined marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman.  However, since 2004, six states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont) have legalized same sex marriage.  State by state, there are cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in the court system.    In May of 2011, the Minnesota legislature adopted a constitutional amendment that would ban recognition of same sex marriage in Minnesota.  Voters will decide on this amendment in the November 2012 general election.  Here is how the voters will see the proposal on the ballot: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota?”  A “yes” vote would mean that the voter is in favor of marriage being legal only between a man and a woman.  A “no” vote would mean the voter wishes to include same-sex marriages as legal.  The defeat of this amendment would open the door to increased rights for people in same-sex marriages.

Although Minnesota has historically leaned to the left, this amendment has resulted in much discussion on both sides of the issue.  In 2010 the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under the new leadership of Archbishop John Nienstedt, mailed a DVD to the homes of over 400,000 Catholic families in Minnesota in the hopes of influencing Catholic voters to vote “yes” on the amendment.  This led to high levels of tension throughout the state of those in support and against the video’s message.  The video warned against the negative influences of same sex marriage in schools, institutions and especially its effect on children.  The video equates the effects of growing up in a household with two moms or two dads to growing up in a polygamous household, or an impoverished, financially struggling, single parent home.  Personally, I believe the Catholic Church has every right to promote their beliefs and as a private institution has every right to deny the marriage between same sex couples in their institution.  However, because in addition to this amendment being a non-Church issue, the message that if one doesn’t vote in favor of the amendment, members of the Catholic Church will be going against his or her religion, is completely inappropriate.  Overall, the DVD was self-defeating since the archbishop used many incorrect or unsubstantiated “facts” to support his argument.  It ended up turning away many Catholic families either in support of changing the amendment or who simply think the Catholic Church should have no influence over this issue.

A quick drive through random neighborhoods in the Twin Cities leaves one with the impression that all Minnesotans have an opinion due to the high number of yard signs advocating opinions on this amendment.  It is usually a forgone conclusion that Minnesota will calmly vote left, but for the first time in a long time, it is not clear where this vote will result.  This issue has stirred up a lot of emotions on both sides of the issue.  The Catholic Church’s entrance into the discussion has certainly provoked Minnesotans to stand in line at the voting polls in November.

-Natalie Thomas

About rowlanda12

This is a blog about the 2012 presidential election. Content is generated by students in Professor Heldman's Politics 101 class. She does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here.
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