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Minnesota gay-marriage opponents weighing new ‘counter’ strategy

MinnPost photo by Beth Hawkins
Valentine's Day 2013 marked the kickoff to Minnesotans United for All Families campaign to convince the DFL-dominated Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage.

A national momentum toward the acceptance of gay marriage is changing the tactics of Minnesota opponents.

With the imminent introduction of bills legalizing gay marriage, some Republicans are saying privately that they may counter with a call for less-sweeping legislation, such as recognition of civil unions or reciprocal benefits for couples.

Republican legislators are said to be considering the change in tactics, partly from personal conviction and partly as a response to the party’s drubbing for its support of the marriage amendment.

“I think there would be some people, Republicans, interested in some alternatives,” said Tom Prichard, executive director of the Minnesota Family Council, which opposes gay marriage and took part in unsuccessful efforts last year to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as an union between a man and woman.

Prichard said the Family Council would continue to oppose legislation that, in his words, is “marriage by another name.” He said legislation creating the status of civil unions is problematic, “depending on how you define things.”

He contends that a law allowing reciprocal benefits to partners who cannot marry under the law — gay couples and siblings, for example — is a fairer way to address the issue.

“It would cover any two people who cannot marry but who care for each other,” he said.  Prichard described a package of benefits, offered in other states, that protects inheritance, property, and visitation rights.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states, including Wisconsin, give non-married couples the right of reciprocal benefits, to varying degrees.  The most expansive benefits are offered in California and Hawaii.

In Wisconsin, which has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a male-female union, registered domestic partners have inheritance and survivor protections, family and medical leave, and medical and hospital visitation rights.  

A Republican senior adviser to Minnesotans United for All Families, who prefers to remain unnamed, said a counter-offer of civil unions would be a non-starter for the gay marriage movement, which now sees a sea change in attitude.

State laws regarding civil unions
National Conference of State LegislaturesState Laws: Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriage

“Five or 10 years ago, that would have been extraordinarily welcome,” said the adviser, who nonetheless appreciates the politics.  “The genius of that kind of move would be to allow more moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats to say we support it.”

DFL leadership in the House and Senate and Gov. Mark Dayton had indicated they wanted the gay marriage debate to take place later in the session, after substantial work on the 2014-2015 state budget. 

The go-slow approach, though, has found no traction among gay marriage supporters.

Jake Loesch, communications director for Minnesota United for All Families, the lobbying group for the bill, confirmed that two DFL legislators from Minneapolis — Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark — will introduce the legislation, which would go to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and the Civil Law Committee in the House.

Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Tom Miller on 02/19/2013 - 10:46 am.

    On forgiveness and reconciliation

    Whether you are an evangelical Christian who believes that homosexuality is a sin (not all do), or a gay activist working for equal access to civil rights, it seems we all need to go through a process of forgiveness and reconciliation. As the Dalai Lama has said, “All of us want to be happy. No one wants to suffer. If we act and behave with that in mind, then it will be a good thing”.
    I believe in cultural peace, not cultural war.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/19/2013 - 10:57 am.

    Nice to see their staying focused and not getting distracted by any real issues.

    • Submitted by Johan Baumeister on 02/19/2013 - 11:26 pm.

      This is a real issue…

      …unless you don’t happen to think gay people are real people.

      We’ve been waiting our whole lives for equality. Now that we can have it, you want us to wait for the Legislature to shuffle pennies around? Since we all know they’re gonna do that anyways…

  3. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 02/19/2013 - 11:12 am.

    Gay Marriage

    What difference does it make of gays get married?? The only people who get upset about it are those who think their religion should dictate what all people do. I for one am a former catholic. I am a former catholic because of my law enforcement career and intimate knowledge of how many pedophiles there still are in the catholic church that are active today. It seems ironic to me that someone could object to gay marriage on religious beliefs on one hand and ignore the continuing pedophile problem on the other.

  4. Submitted by John Ryder on 02/19/2013 - 11:35 am.

    These new tactics never work

    I remember back in 2005 when the Republicans (lead by Michelle Bachmann) tried to ban gay marriage AND civil unions. They failed. Then they tried to ban just gay marriage, and they failed again. And now they’re trying to stop gay marriage by legalizing civil unions? They should know by now that they’re going to fail yet again. Many states have successfully legalized gay marriage by using civil unions as an entry point to show that all it will do is improve the lives of gay and lesbian couples. Minnesota is going to legalize gay marriage, and even if it isn’t this year (which it hopefully will be) we aren’t going to have to wait long for it.

  5. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 02/19/2013 - 11:57 am.

    too little too late

    I would have been for the civil union bill because it seemed reasonable. A big part of me feels that “marriage” is a religious term, that all unions including the hetero kind should be civil and that church ceremonies should be a seperate deal. But, it seems like the born-agains and gay-haters started this fight and thought they could bully through their law. The zeros have hit Pearl Harbor, so to speak, and the time for half steps is past.

    • Submitted by Johan Baumeister on 02/19/2013 - 11:56 pm.

      As a gay man…

      …I’m glad to hear you say that.

      This amendment battle exposed both the bullying of the anti-gays and the craven political calculation of the former Republican leadership. (At least, if Mr. Broadkorp is to be believed.) And for the first time in eight years, the “proven” get-out-the-vote strategy first pioneered by Karl Rove to re-elect President Bush has failed.

      I just feel bad that otherwise well-meaning people have been duped by those that make their living off demeaning LGBT people and our lives. The millions they drained from the wallets of those they scared with the Big Gay Bogeyman could have been much better spent on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and healing the sick. As I recall, that was what Jesus told his followers to do.

  6. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 02/19/2013 - 12:23 pm.

    Separate but Equal

    Tthis country long ago recognized that separate rules for different groups is not legal. There is no reason for Minnesotans to treat our gay neighbors as second class citizens. If marriage is good enough for some of us, it is good enough for all of us.

  7. Submitted by Kurt Anderson on 02/19/2013 - 03:06 pm.

    Some legislative numbers on gay marriage

    If each legislator were to treat the 2012 amendment vote as an advisory referendum on gay marriage (ignoring abstentions) the legislature would vote like this:


    Democrats 73 38
    For GM 55 28
    Against GM 18 10

    Republicans 61 29
    For GM 21 9
    Against GM 40 20

    Total 134 67
    For GM 76 37
    Against GM 58 30

    However, that interpretation is probably a mistake. While the “Yes” vote on the amendment reflects firm opposition to gay marriage, the “No” vote does not necessarily reflect firm support for it. For example, the Independence Party (about 16% in some years) argued against the amendment to “keep the conversation open.” Democrats in “Yes” districts are more likely to follow the amendment vote than Republicans in “No” districts. Laying aside the quarrel in favor of oddsmaking, my prediction: GM will not pass this session.

  8. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 02/19/2013 - 01:34 pm.

    This is just desserts. The same-sex marriage opponents viewed the constitutional amendment as an easy victory. In many ways, it was the classic bully coming to kick sand in the quiet kid’s face. Well, the kid decided not to take it anymore, and the bully is hoping to escape with the minimal beating possible. It’s been great to see what true grass-roots organization can do, and I look forward to passage of a law legalizing gay marriage very soon.

  9. Submitted by Randi Reitan on 02/19/2013 - 02:12 pm.

    We want all 4 of our children to marry the person they love.

    After 40 years of marriage, we know what a cherished blessing our marriage has been in our lives. We know our marriage has been a firm foundation for our family. Our friends and family rejoiced with us on our wedding day and they have continued to share their love and support these last 40 years. That love and support helps families grow strong through the years.

    As a parent, I want all of my children to find a love that will be with them all their days. I want them to have the joy of loving another and the gift of being loved in return. Marriage strengthens that love in many ways.

    Three of the happiest days of my life were the wedding days of our 3 oldest children. To see them find dear people to love and build a family of their own was a prayer answered. We want our gay son to celebrate his love and build his family with a marriage just as his siblings have done.

    I do not understand why anyone would want to deny another what they themselves cherish.

  10. Submitted by John Sergent on 02/19/2013 - 02:22 pm.


    That reciprocal benefits thing is downright devious! Not only is there the obvious insult to gay couples by denying their relationships are similar to those of married, straight couples and instead classifying them with siblings, friends, and roommates, and not only would such an arrangement encourage people to assume that anyone who applies for it is in a relationship that involves sex, but it also would deliberately set up an “I told you so” moment for the anti-marriage-equality side.

    See, they love to claim that if marriage is not restricted to opposite-sex couples then there can be no restrictions on it whatsoever. It’s obvious nonsense, as things stand now. But if they first set a precedent that same sex couples and those other arrangements are all alike given a separate class of benefits, they’ve set up a situation that makes it much more likely that, once the one is inevitably promoted to marriage, a court will require the others to follow. That would perhaps work to put off gay marriage slightly longer, but mostly would help bring about what they claim to be trying to prevent. And it cannot NOT be intentional. “We’ll destroy this before we share it” has never been a pretty thing.

  11. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 02/19/2013 - 04:09 pm.

    The simple solution

    Those who object to same-sex marriages, of course, should not enter into them. Problem solved!

    Of course, there ARE those who think they can somehow justify denying benefits to those who have paid for them (social security survivorship, etc) or think that God will look favorably upon them for trying to deny a frantic spouse hospital visitation rights, but more and more those people are seeing the chickens come home to roost, and it ain’t pretty for them. Good.

  12. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/19/2013 - 04:33 pm.


    The anti-marriage crowd (see, e.g., Katherine Kersten) used to decry any kind of domestic partnerships as being the first step towards the festering pit of gay marriage. Now, “reciprocal benefits” are their somewhat pathetic attempt at preserving the unfairness in the status quo–their “separate but equal.”

  13. Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 02/20/2013 - 06:16 pm.

    So you say.

    Now that I’ve scanned the comments of the “progressives” here, I have concluded that you have rejected Jewish and Christian morality. I wonder what you intend to replace it with, and if any of you believe that your rights are endowed upon you by the Creator.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 02/21/2013 - 08:31 am.

      Unless You Keep the Dietary Rules of the Levitical Code

      i.e. “kosher,” not to mention living by all the other rules and dictates of the Old Testament, you, yourself have rejected “Judeo/Christian” morality, as well.

      But, it can arguably be said that Jesus ONLY preserved the original Ten Commandments, himself,…

      since, in the “sermon on the mount” right after he said he had not come to change the law, he proceeded to reject key portions of that same Levitical Code, and later interrupted the prescribed stoning to death of a woman caught in adultery.

      Not that Jesus let his followers off the hook. He actually expanded the idea of “faithfulness” by requiring that in order to enter into eternity, those who sought to follow him must perform acts of mercy and love, even toward those whom they regard as their enemies.

      With those Biblical realities in mind, it becomes clear that those who favor gay marriage have NOT deserted the way of Jesus, but, rather, have allowed the Holy Spirit to call them forward into the future that God had in mind for all humanity.

      That some of us would use the Bible to shield ourselves from God’s call to change and grow and move into a better future for ourselves and those who surround us is NOT “morality.” It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

      • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 02/21/2013 - 06:20 pm.

        Perhaps you didn’t understand my questions.

        Let me rephrase them.

        1. If “progressives” reject Jewish and Christian morality, what do they intend to replace it with?

        2. Do “progressives” believe their rights are endowed upon them by the Creator?

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/22/2013 - 07:33 am.

          Sez who?

          Besides you, who says progressives “reject” Jewish and Christian morality?

          Sorry – your entire premise is rejected.

          You don’t get to make the rules for everyone else no matter how much you may think your own notions of “morality” allow you to.

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/22/2013 - 08:11 am.


          The underlying assumption here seems to be that religion has some lock on morality. If you don’t follow some portion of their code, then you’re immoral.

          Which, of course, is hogwash if you take even a nanosecond to think about it. Morality is based on the simple premise of “gee, can’t we all just get along?” Society has a vested interest in its citizens not stealing from each other or killing each other. It destabilizes society and that’s bad for business. It’s tough to sell someone a car when they’re worried about a murderous mob chasing them down.

          Now some will argue that allow gays to marry (heck, even exist!) destabilizes society, although they have yet to demonstrate how. They claim that it will cheapen marriage, all the while ignoring the huge elephant in the room: the divorce rate. Or that divorce exists in the first place.

          But back to the original premise. I would argue that nothing needs to be replaced. No one is going to die by letting gays marry. No one is being stolen. No one is being harmed. All you have to do is mind your own business and live and let live. There is no harm and no downside to gay marriage. Hence no need to adjust any moral codes.

          And as an atheist, I can tell you up front that religious people don’t have a lock on morality. I pay my taxes, don’t steal or murder, and I actually stop at stop signs. The assumption that you have to be religious in order to be moral is completely absurd.

  14. Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 02/21/2013 - 12:59 am.


    Separate but equal is never equal.

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