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Supporters Of MN’s Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Call For ‘Respectful Discussion’

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"Supporters Of MN’s Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment Call For ‘Respectful Discussion’"

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On a Saturday, the Minnesota House added an amendment to next year’s ballot that will ask voters to define marriage as the union of a man and woman, sparking “a nasty, expensive campaign that could be second only to President Obama’s re-election bid as the dominant issue of the 2012 political season.”

Minnesota law already outlaws same-sex unions, but supporters of the measure argue that a constitutional amendment is necessary to prevent the courts from overturning it. They’re insisting that Minnesotians should be able to vote on the definition of marriage and that the gay community shouldn’t personalize the coming fight to permanently deny them marriage benefits:

Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, which successfully lobbied to put the issue in front of voters, said Sunday that “our goal is to not make it personal. I think we can have a respectful discussion and conversation on the importance of marriage in our state, where there’s widespread support that the best environment to raise children is with a loving mother and father.”

While it’s difficult to see how one can cast the (much discredited) argument that gay people are unfit parents as a “respectful discussion” that is not “personal,” it’s even harder to accept that argument from the Minnesota Family Council — an organization that has spent years likening homosexuality to “incest, adultery, bestiality, or pedophilia.” For instance, this “Informed Answers to Gay Rights Arguments” pamphlet (PDF) from the Minnesota Family Council website argues that “Some homosexuals, especially lesbians, consciously choose a homosexual lifestyle as part of a political agenda,” warning that “The homosexual population includes a disproportionate number of pedophiles.” Ironically, the pamphlet — which is used by the organization to deny gay couples the right to marry — also notes, “The norm of homosexuality is promiscuity. It is rare that even ‘monogamous’ gay couples do not supplement their relationships with other gay partners.”

Meanwhile, the group’s argument that voters should have the right to define marriage — or take away the right to marry from gay people — is also problematic. As Equality Matters’ Carlos Maza explained last week, marriage referendums reflect the views of well financed interests who use fear and discredited information (see pamphlet above) to sway the vote — not local constituents. As law professor Paula Abrams wrote in 2008:

One can readily conclude that lawmaking by initiative, the manifestation of unchecked majority will, carries a high risk of producing bad laws. The “bad law” risk posed by the initiative is not simply that of generic poor policy. The absence of the deliberative process can leave the voters with profoundly inaccurate information. False information may be an unintended byproduct of the public campaign, or it may be deliberately disseminated for political advantage. Deliberate dissemination of false information can be a particularly potent and harmful strategy to agitate the majority against minority groups. Immune from legislative or executive review, initiative campaigns may rely on appeals to voter prejudice. [Oregon Law Review, Vol. 87, 1025, emphasis added, 2008]

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