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GOP freshman Rep. FitzSimmons spending summer explaining his gay-marriage votes

Fitzsimmons offering an amendment during the May 9 floor debate
Copyright Minnesota House of Representatives/Photo by Paul Battaglia
Rep. David Fitzsimmons offering an amendment during the May 9 floor debate in the Minnesota House.

In one sense, David FitzSimmons, freshman state representative from Albertville, represented a Republican high point of the legislative session. He was one of the few Republicans to successfully attach an amendment to a bill.

The problem for FitzSimmons is that the bill was the legislation that legalized same-sex marriage in Minnesota. He not only amended it but also voted “yea.”

FitzSimmons is now paying the price in his House district in Wright County, perhaps the most conservative county in Minnesota, as he is forced to defend his vote and his political turf.

FitzSimmons says the reaction in his district is mixed.

“I think like most things dealing with the electorate, it’s a wide variety of viewpoints,” he said. “Everything from people who are upset with the results, upset with me — and people who are sympathetic to the situation and knew I was trying to get something out of the legislation.”

Amendment added word 'civil' to marriage

The FitzSimmons amendment added the word "civil" before the word marriage whenever it appears in state law, in an effort to add more protections for religious institutions that would refuse to deal with same-sex marriage participants.

“I wanted to put myself on the record of making sure that when we are expanding the freedom and liberty for one group, we are not trampling on the freedoms and liberties of others,” he said.

Tom Prichard — president of the Minnesota Family Council, which opposed the legislation and supported the amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution — says FitzSimmons’s amendment clouded, not clarified, religious protections because it doesn’t specifically state that any entity — religious or secular — has the right to deny services to same-sex marriage participants.

“It doesn’t deal with the photographer that doesn’t want to photograph same-sex marriages, with school officials, with government officials, with marriage counselors,” he said.

To which Fitzsimmons replies, “There are human rights protections. What they wanted was impossible.”

Impossible or illegal, the Minnesota Family Council promises to inform voters. “We are a policy organization,” Prichard said. “We are making sure people know how candidates voted on the marriage legislation.”

Solid GOP credentials

That means that FitzSimmons may find himself in an endorsement battle in District 30B when he runs next year.  There are no candidates yet who have announced plans to run against FitzSimmons, testimony, perhaps, to his solid Republican credentials.

He is the former Republican chair of Wright County and former chair of the 6th Congressional District, represented by Michele Bachmann, whom he has supported. He managed, briefly, Tom Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign and volunteered at the media event where Emmer announced his campaign for the Bachmann seat.

FitzSimmons may get some help from Minnesotans United, the group that lobbied for gay marriage and promised campaign help for supportive lawmakers from socially conservative districts. Fitzsimmons didn’t make the first cut of names that Minnesotans United mentioned in a recent fundraising email.

It’s too early to gauge what impact outside groups will have in the district.

Amy Koch, former state senator from Wright County, says Minnesotans United may be helpful but needs to recognize the composition of the district. “He [FitzSimmons] has the very conservative side of the district — St. Michael, Albertville,” she said. "[In redistricting] he picked up Big Lake."

Emmer says FitzSimmons can help himself by just explaining — and explaining again — his decision.

“I disagree with him on this vote. But he said something to me that’s important to communicate to his delegates: ‘At least I was trying to do something,’ ” Emmer said. “You believe what you believe. You stand up for what you believe in, and if the people disagree, you talk to them.”

FitzSimmons remains optimistic that his constituents will understand the nuances of his legislative actions.

“I have said it before and after — I still have a lot of concerns with the way things are moving with same-sex marriage,” he said.  “It’s obviously still very new. We don’t know how it will work. We have very limited ground experience.”

And even in as conservative a district as FitzSimmons’s, he believes there are Republicans who are conflicted on the issue of gay marriage. “Most Republicans are struggling with this issue,” he said.

So much so that FitzSimmons offered a post-legislative analysis of the gay-marriage vote.  “Someone asked me what the Republican vote would have been on a secret ballot,” he said.  “I think 15 to 20 [House Republicans] would have voted yes.”

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Comments (8)

Wright County

I think you made a mistake in your article. You said Wright County was the most conservative county in the state, don't you mean the most homophobic, racist county in the state? I live in Anoka County in which most people are homophobic, and racist but not as bad as Wright.

Out of line?

It's hard to believe the moderator would allow this unsubstantiated and inflamatory rhetoric to pass through.

Yeah, What About That?

We have come to expect more of MinnPost.

Fallout

I suspect that, in the end, the fallout from the gay marriage vote will be minimal. The voters for whom opposition to gay marriage was the most important issue facing them are few. By the time the election comes around next year, and fire and brimstone have not covered the state, most voters aren't goign to worry about. A few zealots will make a lot of noise, but the noise will, in the end, signify nothing.

Someone should explain...

To some of these Republicans that explicitly denying rights to any group of legal and recognized citizens for reasons of race, gender, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is unconstitutional. Had their attempt to implement discrimination succeeded, it would have been struck down by the courts anyways.

gay marrage in MD and MN

I live in MD and since marriage passed, I've talked to a lot of people about it, many of whom I would suspect originally opposed it

Not any more. Sure there are a few extremists, but the old story about you cant put the toothpaste back in the tube seems to apply

The sky hasnt fallen down, we didnt geta new etched in stone msg from god saying he was going to abolish marriage in all forms etc

When you cut through the noisy antis, most people support it, many more understand it doesn't affect them, and we have the usual noisy small bunch of antis

Whose actions make us wonder if they believe that god issued only a certain number of marriage licenses and if the gays use them up, no one else can get married

BTW there are stll a bunch of people who believe only 144,000 people can go to heaven. Given that heaven must be full with billions on the waiting list its time to have some fun and sin, sin and sin more.

Best comment of all time!

"Whose actions make us wonder if they believe that god issued only a certain number of marriage licenses and if the gays use them up, no one else can get married."

Priceless!

I'm gonna remember that one and use it whenever it seems to fit if you don't mind!

HD30B

One small correction. Rep. Fitzsimmon's house district does not include Big Lake, which is in Sherburne county. HD 30B is Hanover, St. Michael, Albertville, most of Otsego and part of Dayton.