By most reports, the debate surrounding a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the Minnesota House lasted hours on Saturday night before passing on a 70-62 vote. But really, there was no debate.
Instead there were hours and hours of impassioned floor speeches invoking the better of Minnesota political history and culture to turn away from bigotry and discrimination. But those who supported the measure, who forced the issue through the House at a time when there is no budget and the state government will likely shut down because of that fact, they said nothing.
And their silence was deafening.
They were not out on the House floor advocating for enshrining discrimination into the Minnesota state constitution. At best one lone representative, Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) stood up and said that the amendment was necessary because he did not believe it should be up to judges to interpret equal protection guarantees as applying to same-sex couples. But that was it.
Minnesota law already bans gay marriage and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has vowed to fight the issue with “every fiber” of his being, though ultimately he can do little since governors have no veto over constitutional amendments passed by a legislative majority.
So instead it will be up to the people of Minnesota who will vote on the ban in November 2012. The opposition to this amendment was fierce, and despite the loss of the vote, it is already organizing for an 18 month battle to defeat the measure. Many Republicans were visibly uncomfortable with the vote, especially since the last poll from the Star Tribune showed a majority of Minnesotans did not support the ban.
This may prove to be one of the most significant political misreads by state Republicans to date.
photo courtesy of firemedic58 via Flickr