MN Law Faculty: Anti-Gay Constitutional Amendment Would Increase Expenses For The State

Republicans in Minnesota have fast-tracked a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that could appear on the 2012 ballot. The measure — which would amend the state constitution to say “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota” — passed out of committees in the Senate on Friday and the House on Monday and will likely move to the floor of both chambers in the coming days.

Yesterday, 63 current and former law school faculty members from the University of Minnesota formally pushed back against the effort, signing an open letter to state legislators urging them to vote against the bill. The professors argued that it would “set in constitutional cement the existing hardships on thousands of families, including children” and create new expenses for the state:

The potential applications of an amendment and its collateral consequences in other areas of the law could be far- reaching. Frankly, the full implications of the proposed amendment are unknown. Accordingly, it will likely generate litigation over both its validity and its scope; in effect, the legislature is inviting significant and needless expense for the state and its citizens during a time of extraordinary economic difficulty.

In its 153 years of statehood, Minnesota has enacted many changes in the practice and law of marriage, and in family-related topics like divorce and adoption. Many of these changes have been controversial and have generated considerable debate in the state legislature and among the public. Minnesotans of good will may continue to debate the merits of legally recognizing same-sex couples through marriage or some other status. But in its entire history, Minnesota has never cut short the ordinary legislative process regarding marriage and family law by enshrining one particular view into its constitution. There is no compelling need to do so now.

Minnesota state law already bans gay and lesbian couples from marrying and as a result same-sex couples in the state face “515 legal challenges, from serious issues involving taxes and end-of-life issues to more mundane concerns such as the inability to purchase a family fishing license.” According to the Williams Institute, in 2005, there were an estimated “175,611 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people (single and coupled) living in Minnesota” — 16,081 of whom were coupled.