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Gay-marriage supporters tout freedom to persuade Republican legislators

MinnPost photo by James Nord
GOP Sens. Dan Hall and Warren Limmer confer during Tuesday's Senate same-sex marriage hearings. Both are strong opponents of legalizing same-sex marriage.

From their cell phones to their emails to their Capitol hangouts, the men and women who are lobbying Republican legislators to support gay marriage are shouting, “Let freedom ring.”

With gay marriage legislation headed for a full House and Senate vote, Minnesotans United for All Families, the umbrella group for legalizing gay marriage, has put its Republican team into high gear. 

The team consists of Connolly Kuhl Group for grass-roots outreach, and Messerli & Kramer and Hill Capitol Strategies for direct lobbying.

They’re working to round up enough Republican votes to offset DFLers who oppose gay marriage and to give passage some semblance of bipartisan support.

The message to Republicans runs strong on the theme of liberty.

The argument is that prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples directly contradicts the Republican principle of personal freedom and is another example of unwanted and unnecessary government interference.

“Everybody who has signed on has had pretty decent response, not a ton of pushback,” said Carl Kuhl, Republican communications consultant.

Still, the freedom argument swings both ways.

Even though the legislation (SF 925HF 1054) allows churches and religious organizations to have control over whom they choose to marry, gay marriage opponents counter it will impinge upon religious freedom, beliefs and teachings.

That requires Republican lobbyists and messengers to perform a delicate dance of words.

“We are not talking about the religious sense of marriage,” said Kuhl. “It is the civil sense of marriage.”

He said that when voters are told the legislation protects religious freedom and refers to civil marriage, the positive response to gay marriage increases.

Minnesotans United has just completed an internal poll with a similar question. According to its communications director, Jake Loesch, the poll showed 49 percent supporting gay marriage and 44 percent opposing it.

“There is not going to be overwhelming support right now for freedom to marry,” he said.  “But this is a conservative values issue.”

Loesch and others involved in the Republican lobbying effort acknowledge that most GOP legislators are conflicted.

“They worry this may be too fast too soon. [But] a lot of folks understand this is an evolving issue,” said the 30-something Kuhl. “The world is changing.”

Lobbyists understand the internal turmoil. They are talking to legislators, who in turn must talk to their constituents — the people who will decide whether to return them to office.

To counter concerns about re-election, Freedom to Marry, a national gay marriage group, analyzed election results [PDF] in 2012 in New York, Washington state, New Jersey, and Maryland.  Only two of the 13 Republicans who supported gay marriage in those states lost their seats because of their vote, according to the study.

Minnesotans United promises there will be tangible support for Minnesota Republicans who may face a primary challenge if they support gay marriage.

That support, political and financial, is likely to emerge from a new group, Republicans United for Freedom, whose steering committee features such notable Minnesota Republicans as Richard Painter, a member of the George W. Bush administration; Dale Carpenter, head of the civil law division of the University of Minnesota College of Law; and Susan Kimberly, who was deputy mayor of St. Paul under former Mayor Norm Coleman.

dale carpenter photo
MinnPost photo by James Nord
University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter serves on the steering committee of Republicans United for Freedom.

Defending individual liberty is the Republicans United mission. Not coincidentally, a group of prominent national Republicans used similar language in an amicus brief filed in support of overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Minnesota United’s Loesch believes these Republican groups eventually will coalesce and morph into political action committees for the 2014 elections.

For the moment, though, the focus is on the handful of Republicans in the Minnesota House and Senate who may vote in favor of gay marriage when the bill comes to the floor, likely toward the end of the legislative session.

Under the best of conditions, even with the siren call of liberty, it will be a tough vote. The job of the Republican lobbying team is to convince legislators that it’s time to take the tough vote and make it count for a stand on Republican principle.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Todd Adler on 03/14/2013 - 12:11 pm.


    People are still wondering if now is the right time to legalize gay marriage? This is 2013 for Pete’s sake, not 1613. We’re not burning witches at the stake and the whole business that being gay is a choice has been debunked so many times and in so many ways that the only people who believe it are those who willfully ignore the evidence.

    There are times when our leaders need to lead and not simply wring their hands while they wait for the polls to catch up. Voting yes is the right and honorable thing to do. Get it done.

    • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 03/14/2013 - 07:16 pm.


      Note that Mr. Hintz needs to use the modifier “gay” for the word “marriage”.

      That is because marriage is between a man and a woman for the purpose of forming a union, consummating the marriage by engaging in the procreative act, forming a family unit to raise their offspring.

      Anything else needs a modifier.

      • Submitted by Johan Baumeister on 03/14/2013 - 08:42 pm.

        Mr. Krasnoff, please spare us your endless repetition of your personal beliefs on marriage.

        Neither the law nor most churches mandate that marriage be procreative in nature. And should you have doubts about that last part, let me point out that the most commonly used set of vows in the religious ceremony mention procreation and offspring exactly ZERO times. The law does not require it either. Procreation outside of marriage is just as legal as a marriage devoid of it.

        Unless you’re prepared to argue that we force unwed mothers to marry and infertile couples to divorce, your position is as inconsistent as Newt Gingrich giving a lecture on fidelity.

        • Submitted by Sarah Silander on 03/15/2013 - 08:21 am.

          Really Mr. Baumeister?

          Mr. Baumeister,

          Why not agree to disagree instead of trying to silence Mr. Krasnoff? True tolerance is reciprocal is it not?

          Mr. Krasnoff has a right to repeatedly state his views on marriage equal to your right to repeatedly dispute them.

        • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 03/15/2013 - 02:53 pm.

          Mr. Baumeister, please spare me

          Mr. Baumeister wrote:

          “Mr. Krasnoff, please spare us your endless repetition of your personal beliefs on marriage.”

          because I stated religious, cultural, and biological fact:

          “That is because marriage is between a man and a woman for the purpose of forming a union, consummating the marriage by engaging in the procreative act, forming a family unit to raise their offspring.”

          Mr. Baumeister, along with Minnesota United for All Families, wish to deny object truth. So be it.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 04/16/2013 - 06:16 pm.

        No . . . .

        He needed the modifier because – at the present time – Minnesota defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. So a discussion about expanding marriage to include same sex couples includes the modifier “gay” (or “same sex” or something similar) in order to state what is being proposed (the expansion of who can become married).

        Most people can figure that out without having to have it explained to them.

    • Submitted by Sarah Silander on 03/15/2013 - 08:07 am.

      Be careful what you wish for Mr. Hintz

      An honorable and right legislator is one who votes in support of the majority of their constituents, not against them.

      I support SSM legislation but not this year because what goes around comes around.

      If vote counters at the capitol are correct, SSM will pass this session only if a dozen or so legislators give in to lobbyist pressure to vote against the majority will of their districts.

      If they defy their constituents, it will establish a precedence that erodes our democratic system, a price too high to pay that will also sooner or later give everyone’s legislators the idea they can survive defying their constituents.

  2. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 03/14/2013 - 07:16 pm.

    Gay Marriage

    I actually had email conversations with several GOP legislators that believe being gay is a choice. It is incredible that supposedly intelligent people would believe in what a Bible says, rather than face the facts of science. When I pointed out that the genes, plural, responsible for determining the sexual preference of a human being are the 7th 8th and tenth, but the tenth is a factor only if it is inherited from the mother, their response was right out of the dark ages. I got bible, smible stuff. When I pointed out that the bible was written by orders of Alexander the Great to his specifications, I got more bible smible stuff and figured you can’t cure stupid. So I gave up.

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