Going against previous GOP priorities, Republican lawmakers on Tuesday introduced similar constitutional amendments that would ask Minnesota voters to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
Although Republican leaders previously said lawmakers would focus on the state’s $5 billion budget deficit this session, Sens. Warren Limmer, David Hann and Paul Galzelka introduced the measures, which, if passed, will appear on the 2012 ballot.
“We want to bring this to the people,” said Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud.
Similar language is currently in state law, but the Republicans said they want to take the issue out of the hands of “politicians or … activist judges in St. Paul.”
At least 20 proposed constitutional amendments are floating around the state Capitol, though few have gained much attention as budget negotiations have taken center stage.
“It is not a distraction from the budget,” Limmer said, and other GOP legislators reiterated that Minnesota’s fiscal shortfall is the main priority.
But, the Republicans said, it’s important to introduce the amendment early so that voters have time to consider what it would mean in Minnesota.
“It’s really one of those questions you really do need to have a discussion about,” Limmer said.
Hann said a gay marriage-related constitutional amendment has been proposed each of the eight years he’s served in the Legislature.
In response, DFL legislators said the amendment is likely just a ruse from Republicans to distract voters from a “fictional budget” populated with “funny money.”
“What family does this help in Minnesota?” said DFL Sen. Scott Dibble. “This bill helps absolutely no one.”
The political ramifications are unclear if such a measure makes it onto the 2012 ballot, although it could draw millions of dollars in outside money into Minesota elections.
“Quite honestly it could go both ways,” Limmer said when asked if the amendment could spur GOP voter turnout.
Democrats were equally unsure, although Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said an amendment banning gay marriage would encourage “horrified” young people to vote it down.
Roughly 30 states have allowed voters to determine the definition of marriage, and about five are currently considering similar proposals, Republicans said.
Constitutional amendments, which bypass the governor’s desk, require a majority vote of each house to make the ballot.
Before the announcement, Gov. Mark Dayton said: “I strongly oppose a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage. It [a prohibition] already exists in state law.”
The original story incorrectly stated the number of votes needed for legislative approval of a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments require a majority vote of each house to make the ballot.