Delegates at the Republican state convention in St. Cloud next week will vote on whether to change the party’s platform to eliminate the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The resolution, advanced by the fourth congressional district, is not likely to pass. In fact, it may not even reach the threshold of support to warrant a floor debate. But gay rights advocates consider the vote itself a victory.
“The sheer fact that it has come up through several different layers shows that Republicans are actively engaged in the conversation,” said Jake Loesch, who works with Republican coalitions at Minnesotans United for All Families, the campaign to defeat the marriage amendment.
The resolution, whether adopted or not, also embodies a shift toward making the platform more of a debate on a statement of principles and less of a legislative agenda.
“We tried to address concerns about the platform getting too big,” said Harry Niska, a 31-year-old lawyer from Anoka who chairs the party’s platform committee.
The committee of 18 volunteers had the responsibility of culling 60 resolutions from the more than 500 that were passed in the state’s eight congressional district conventions.
“We tried to get what we thought was not too specific, but not too general; salient issues that we thought had broad-based interest among the delegates statewide,” Niska said.
Some of the resolutions Niska described as “big, controversial,” like the resolution to strike the party’s objection to the expansion of gambling. Versions of that resolution came from the third and fourth congressional districts that, along with the fifth, represent the core of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The party’s libertarian wings play a greater role in those districts and is more likely to challenge the party platform on gambling, gay rights, and even legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, a resolution that emerged from the fifth district.
Four congressional districts offered resolutions on reducing the size of the platform. The result is a resolution to retain the party’s statement of principles but sunset the platform every two years.
The convention’s 2,000 plus delegates and alternates will see that resolution along with several dozen others on a lengthy ballot that includes notations from the platform committee stating whether a resolution is recommended, not recommended or no position has been taken by the panel. Resolutions to simplify the platform and consolidate the party’s position on health care carry recommendations. The resolution on marriage received a negative recommendation, “but we did decide to bring it forward,” Niska noted. Elimination of the party’s opposition to gambling has no position from the committee.
Debate on resolutions can go on for groan-inducing hours. To speed up action, a resolution must receive 50 percent support on the paper ballot before it moves to floor discussion. A resolution that gets more than 70 percent on initial balloting gets adopted without discussion.
Many of the resolutions that made the final cut still read like Republican legislative proposals – – resolutions on voter ID, the so-called castle doctrine (allowing force to protect a person’s property) and regulation and inspections of facilities that provide abortions.
“It can be quite a chore,” Niska said, describing the multiple hours of committee work and the effort to avoid creating “the entire legislative agenda for the state of Minnesota.” But he’s satisfied with the progress. “There was enough of a consensus that we should be trying to reform this process,” he said. “It’s an art, not a science.”
Paul to address convention
The state GOP has announced that presidential candidate and Texas Rep. Ron Paul will address the delegates May 18, the first night of the convention, following the endorsement of a candidate to run against Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Paul endorsee Kurt Bills, a state representative from Lakeville, is favored to win the endorsement over challengers Pete Hegseth and Dan Severson. Paul supporters in Minnesota have mounted an impressive and successful campaign to gain him support among delegates. Paul now holds 20 of the 24 at-large delegates that will go to the national Republican Convention in August.