The Minnesota Senate yesterday voted 38-27 to put a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman on the ballot in 2012. Every Republican in the Senate voted in lockstep, while a lone Democrat, a Senator LeRoy Stumpf, also voted in favor.
Insofar as it seems that the pundits agree that passage by the Assembly is all but guaranteed, there will be a vote on this measure in Minnesota in November of 2012.
I say "Bring It On."
The homophobes have finally made a tactical mistake. They won in California; they won in Maine; they terrorized the legislatures of Maryland and Rhode Island (and likely soon do the same in New York) into not even voting.
But they already have a law on the books banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota -- now they've gotten greedy and have seriously overreached.
Why do I think that?
This isn't 2004 any more...
Eight years of huge social changes in attitudes towards gays and lesbians will have passed by 2012. People just aren't into constitutional amendments to ban marriage equality these days. The time of Karl Rove whipping people into a frenzy over this has passed. As far back as two years ago only a third of Minnesotans saw a need for a constitutional amendment:
Star-Tribune May 1, 2009 1042 adults
No change in current law banning same-sex marriage: 34%
Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage needed: 33%
Legalize same-sex marriage: 25%
Even in Indiana, a more conservative state than Minnesota, a plurality do not support a similar constitutional amendment (43% in favor, 47% opposed).
It seems to me more likely that those opposed to this amendment will be 'whipped into a frenzy', more motivated to go out and vote because of this than those in favor of it.
The good guys get votes by default!
In order to amend the Minnesota Constitution, an absolute majority of all those who vote on election day -- not just a majority of those who vote on the ballot initiative -- must vote for the amendment. That means anyone who leaves the ballot initiative blank is effectively a 'No' vote.
How much might this affect the results? In California in 2008 2.48% of the ballots cast in the election did not have a vote for or against Proposition 8. Had those votes been counted as 'No', Proposition 8 would have still won, but by somewhat less than half the margin it ended up winning by. If the California result is any indication, 'No' in Minnesota could be starting out with about a 2.5% advantage. That's nothing to sneeze at.
You don't have to be for same-sex marriage to vote against this amendment:
It makes no sense for someone who favors marriage equality to vote for the amendment, but the reverse is not true and will happen.
In a poll taken in October of last year, 41% of likely Minnesota voters said they favored same-sex marriage, while 49% were against it. The demographics of likely voters is going to shift towards younger and more liberal in 2012 versus what it was in 2010. And public opinion continues to shift in favor of marriage equality.
By the time November, 2012 rolls around, it seems conservative to assume that this 41%-49% split from 2010 might reduce to 43%-47%.
A 43%-47% spread mean that only about 4% of those who do not favor same-sex marriage would have to be willing to vote against this constitutional amendment to turn the tide. A 4% drift seems, might I say again, conservative. The fact that there is already a law in place in Minnesota banning same-sex marriages is a good argument against enhrining this in the Minnesota Constitution. Coupled with the advantage of blank ballots being treated as 'No' votes there should be little question which side will win this referendum.
I suspect that as soon as some serious polling is done on this issue after the amendment is irrevocably placed on the ballot, Republicans are going to wish for their votes back. A lot of Minnesotans are not going to be happy about having such a contentious issue on the ballot, and not a single Minnesotan newspaper (to my knowledge) has endorsed the amendment.
This will be the first, but not the last, time that voters in statewide referenda will vote against the bigots, not with them. They will not longer be able to claim that they have the people's support.
Maybe it's wrong to vote on other people's rights (or maybe it's not), but the homophobes have removed any choice in the matter in Minnesota.
I could be proved terribly wrong, but I look forward to reveling in their defeat. As Lieutenant Worf might say: "It will be glorious."
(Disclaimer: Predicting the future is hard. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Leave it to the professionals who get it wrong just as often, if not more so, as the average yokel. The author strong advises you not to risk your entire net worth betting on Intrade (or anywhere else) against this amendment passing. Past performance is not a predictor of the future. All that is gold does not glitter. A stitch in time saves nine Einsteins. The Secretary disavows any knowledge of this essay.)