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2012 Fall Issue 3 (October 5, 2012)

Minnesota Marriage Amendment Looms Large; Divides Students, Minnesotans

October 6, 2012
By Max Esslinger

In little over a month, voters across Minnesota will go to the polls to decide whether or not the state constitution should be amended to explicitly ban marriage between partners of the same sex.

The ballot measure under consideration, officially termed the Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Amendment, would define marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and would make any potential reversal of the existing state ban on same sex marriages highly difficult for the near future.

Current polls indicate a very narrow majority of Minnesotans favors the constitutional change, and campaigners on both sides of the issue are using the final weeks before Election Day to mobilize their faithful to the cause.

On Monday, supporters of the bill staged a speaking event in Rochester, drawing religious leaders from across the Twin Cities metro area. A counter-demonstration has been planned for later this month, and Minnesotans United for All Families, an advocacy group opposed to the amendment, has planned a number of pep rallies and fundraisers of its own over the next few weeks.

Both campaigns have also unveiled new television advertisements, with supporters of the amendment doing so for the first time on Monday. Prominent public figures have also been keen to get their two cents in to the debate; former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk’s controversial support of the ballot measure being the latest example.

Carleton has seen its fair share of activism as well, with a number of student organizations fighting hard to defeat the proposed amendment. The CSA’s recent decision to pass a resolution denouncing the amendment indicates where they think most Carls lie on the issue.

“The amendment sends the wrong message to gay and lesbian people. It says that their love is not as powerful as other people’s love and that’s simply not true,” said Luke Hellwig, an organizer with Minnesotans United for All Families. Joe Soonthornsawad, a fellow organizer worried that the amendment, if it were to pass, would dissuade same-sex couples from moving to Minnesota.

“It would affect life in Minnesota for decades to come; it will prevent people from coming here and force others away,” he said. 

Yet there are others on campus, notably within the Carleton Conservative Union (CCU), who are more subdued in their reaction. Club president Travis Nordgaard, though firm in his personal opposition to the amendment, has decided not to ally his group with either side. “We are a group of people who talk politics and we often don’t agree on things. There are some in the CCU who support the amendment, so we do not want to take a stance officially.”

Soonthornsawad is less ambivalent: “for me this amendment only divides us further—it’s a non-choice.” Indeed, even at Carleton, it seems that such dividing lines very much exist.

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