Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Minnesota Approves Same-sex Marriage

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The state Senate of Minnesota voted 37 to 30 on May 13 to allow same-sex marriages, following earlier passage of the legislation by the state’s House of Representatives on May 9 by a 75-to-59 vote. The legislation changes the definition of marriage in Minnesota from "between a man and a woman" to a civil contract between two persons.

The bill now goes to DFL Governor Mark Dayton, who has indicated he will sign the bill Tuesday evening. Dayton is heir to the Dayton’s Department Store fortune, now known as Target Corporation.

Both houses of the Minnesota legislature are dominated by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), which outnumbers Republicans 73 to 61 in the House and 39 to 28 in the Senate. The DFL is affiliated with the national Democratic Party, but has origins in the leftist Populist, Progressive movement that has long been popular in the upper Midwest.

Minnesota becomes the third state in the nation to approve same-sex marriage in May, following Rhode Island and Delaware. It is the second Midwestern state to do so, after Iowa. But Iowa’s status resulted not from a legislative vote, but a 2009 decision by the state’s supreme court.

Demonstrators marched outside the state capitol in St. Paul before the vote, carrying signs against and in favor of the legislation: “Don’t Erase Moms and Dads” and “Marriage Equality, You Betcha.”

“In my heart of hearts, I know that today love wins,” State Senator Tony Lourey (DFL) was quoted by the New York Times as saying.

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But State Senator Torrey Westrom, a Republican, asked, “Where does this stop?” This vote, he said, will send Minnesota “down that road of taking mother and father out of our recognition of what our children need.”

The Times also quoted a statement from the Rev. Thomas McCabe, a Catholic priest who stood among the crowd inside the Capitol, and pointed out the obvious: “It’s an objective reality that every baby has a mom and a dad.”

A Reuters news story posted on NBC.com observed that this latest vote marked “a sharp reversal for Minnesota’s legislature.” Just two years ago, the then-Republican-controlled legislature bypassed the governor and voted to place a measure on the ballot that would have made the state's existing ban on gay marriage part of the state constitution.

However, Minnesota voters rejected that proposal last November and also elected Democratic-Farmer-Labor majorities to both houses, making Monday’s legislative vote possible. 

Reuters also quoted Republican Senator Warren Limmer, a sponsor of the proposed pro-traditional marriage amendment two years ago, who has said the legislation will change how businesses work, clergy speak from the pulpit, and school curricula are shaped.

“Prior to the marriage amendment [vote] in November, many people were warning that this day would come,” Limmer said in an interview last week.

Limmer was also quoted in a report from Minnesota Public Radio, which said that the Maple Grove Republican does not believe the legislation provides adequate protections for those who do not believe in so-called gay marriage.

“This proposal does not protect religious institutions and non-profits," said … Limmer…. Organizations like the YMCA, Northwestern College and the University of St. Thomas "are all religious affiliated institutions, but they are not protected. Northwestern is a very popular place to get married. That Christian college cannot refuse (a same sex wedding on its grounds), according to this law that we’re considering. And so it goes with other institutions."

MPR also quoted another Republican senator, Sean Nienow of Cambridge, who charged that wedding photographers and others who make a living off weddings but don't believe in gay marriage would be given the difficult choice of being put out of business or “violating their core beliefs.”

Others spoke in favor of the recent measure: “This legislation will finally give [same-sex couples] the same recognition that my wife and I have and most of the people in this room have. Nothing more. Nothing less," MPR quoted Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) as saying. “These families pay taxes, participate in their communities ... These families deserve the same rights that we do.”

Marty’s statement presumes not only a redefinition of marriage, but a redefinition of “family” as well.

Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), who MPR said warned that the bill would create the worst societal divisions since the Civil War, posed some penetrating questions: “Are homosexual marriages good for our children? Are we as members in this chamber going to change the course of history?”

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 11 states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Maine, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia.

President Obama announced on May 9, 2012, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” Obama also supports the repeal of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. DOMA restricts federal marriage benefits and requires inter-state marriage recognition only to opposite-sex marriages in the United States. Clinton has since reversed his stand and now advocates the repeal of DOMA.

As the battle between the novelty known as same-sex marriage and millennia-old traditional marriage continues, and as state after state jumps on the same-sex bandwagon, it is interesting to consider what most American believe on this critical cultural issue.

In a June 22, 2011 article, The New American cited a May 2011 survey conducted by the pro-family Alliance Defense Fund. After polling 1,500 Americans about their opinions on marriage, the survey found that 62 percent agreed with the traditional definition of marriage, with 53 percent “strongly” agreeing.

Bible-believing Christians may observe with some irony that this latest legislative triumph against the traditional Judeo-Christian concept of marriage took place in St. Paul, Minnesota, named after the Log Chapel of St. Paul. Father Lucien Galtier, who established the chapel, wrote that the settlement was now to be called by that name, as “Saint Paul as applied to a town or city was well appropriated, this monosyllable is short, sounds good, it is understood by all Christian denominations.”

St. Paul, known as “the Apostle to the Gentiles,” authored 13 books of the New Testament, and several passages in Paul’s epistles condemn homosexuality, especially Romans 1:26-27, which reads, in the King James version of the Bible:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Photo of crowd cheering in the Minnesota State Capitol as the State Senate approved same-sex marriage: AP Images