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Voters in 31 states have considered whether to prohibit same-sex marriage either through statute or constitutional amendment. In every single instance, voters backed initiatives to reserve the right to marry strictly to a man and a woman.

Anti-gay marriage groups quietly prep for ballot battle

“It’s about preserving an important institution,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, adding that same-sex unions would amount to “redefining marriage for everyone.” (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Supporters of marriage ban amendment hope to continue an unbroken string of victories nationwide

Voters in 31 states have considered whether to prohibit same-sex marriage either through statute or constitutional amendment. In every single instance, voters backed initiatives to reserve the right to marry strictly to a man and a woman.

A coalition of conservative advocacy groups will be leading the campaign to keep Minnesota from becoming the first state to reject the prohibition of gay marriage. Three principal organizations have registered with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to raise money for the effort: the National Organization for Marriage Minnesota Marriage Fund, the Minnesota Catholic Conference Marriage Defense Fund and the Minnesota Family Council Marriage Protection Fund. The trio of organizations will be coordinating their efforts under the moniker Minnesota for Marriage.

“It’s about preserving an important institution,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. “When you’re talking about marriage and changing the definition of marriage, you’re not creating a separate institution called same-sex marriage. You’re in fact redefining marriage for everyone.”

Adkins also suggests that failing to define marriage in the Constitution as a union between one man and one woman could lead to a slippery slope. “There’s little reason why you’d limit it to two people at all,” Adkins said. “What if a bisexual wants a partner of each kind, a man and a woman? Are you leaving that group out?”

Steering committee will coordinate

The fledgling campaign to pass the gay marriage amendment is still taking shape. Minnesota for Marriage’s efforts will be guided by a three-person steering committee consisting of Adkins, John Helmberger of the Minnesota Family Council and Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. The group has hired Chuck Darrell as communications director. But it hasn’t decided whether to hire a single individual as campaign manager.
“It’s early in the campaign,” Adkins said. “Those things are still under consideration.”

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, a key supporter of the gay marriage amendment, says he doesn’t anticipate being heavily involved in the campaign. “I don’t really expect to have a key role as far as any of the organizations that are lining up to pass the amendment,” Gazelka said. “I think the Legislature’s role is to pass it and bring it before the people, and now it’s up to the variety of groups to make the case.”

Amendment supporters refuse to discuss their plans in detail. Calls to the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage were referred to Darrell. “Right now we’re not really in a position to be talking about who all the players are and sharing any campaign strategy,” Darrell said. “It just would be detrimental to the cause.”

Maine experience may be a guide

But the history of kindred battles in other states offers some indication of what Minnesota can expect from the pro-amendment campaign. Since 2008 four states have held gay marriage referendums: Arizona, California, Florida and Maine. In three of those contests, opponents of gay marriage raised less money than the opposition. According to reports from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, opponents of gay marriage bans took in $56.6 million for the four campaigns, while traditional marriage conservatives took in $46.8 million.

“We expect to be outspent,” Darrell conceded. “We’ll raise what we need to raise to get the job done.”

The campaign in Maine was the most recent and probably affords the most telling glimpse of what will transpire in Minnesota. In 2009 Maine’s Legislature became the first in the country to legalize gay marriage. But opponents of same-sex nuptials immediately organized a campaign to have voters decide the issue.

Polls throughout the campaign suggested that Maine was likely to become the first state to uphold gay marriage at the ballot box. Opponents of same-sex marriage raised $3.4 million — nearly 70 percent less than their opponents. The National Organization for Marriage contributed $1.6 million to the cause, while the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland gave $286,000 and the conservative national advocacy group Focus on the Family chipped in $179,000.
But when all the votes had been tallied, Maine residents opted to repeal the gay marriage law by a 53-47 percent margin. The Rev. Bob Emrich, co-director of the campaign to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law, says that polling consistently underestimated support for their campaign, especially among the religious. “They thought Maine was going to be an easy target,” said Emrich, who is pastor of Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth. “As it turned out, people feel more strongly than they thought.”

Jesse Connolly, who served as campaign manager for the pro-gay marriage coalition, attributes the 2009 loss partly to the fact that it was an election season with no high-profile races to entice voters to the polls. “I think the electorate wasn’t in our favor,” Connolly said. But he also argues that opponents of gay marriage successfully scared voters by misleadingly suggesting that gay marriage would be taught in elementary schools. “I think we sort of fought that to a draw,” Connolly said. “They were able to create that seed of doubt.”

National players expected here

Connolly is not surprised that proponents of the amendment in Minnesota are keeping a low profile. He notes that the National Organization for Marriage unsuccessfully sued in federal court to overturn Maine’s campaign finance rules and thereby keep its donors anonymous. “It’s not surprising at all that they’re being very private about who their donors are [and] who makes up their coalition,” he said.

Close observers of previous gay marriage referendums point out another common characteristic of the campaigns: the work of the Schubert Flint Public Affairs company. According to the firm’s website, it has worked on 36 ballot initiative campaigns since 1992, winning 30 of those contests. Schubert Flint, a California outfit that has offices in Sacramento and Orange County, was initially hired to work on the 2008 California referendum. It played a key role in the campaign in Maine the following year.

“I would be shocked if they’re not brought in to be a part of the campaign in Minnesota and probably part of the campaign in North Carolina,” Connolly said. (North Carolina residents will vote on a gay marriage referendum in May.)

Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, also expects Schubert Flint to play a role in the Minnesota campaign. “They’ll hire Minnesota actors, but it will be the same script,” Solomon said.

Emrich acknowledges that Schubert Flint played an important role in the Maine campaign but suggests that the firm’s inclusion was simply common sense given its track record of success. “The impact of changing the definition of marriage isn’t limited [by] a state border,” Emrich said. “The message is the same almost no matter where you are. … It isn’t any different from what the opposition did.”

While supporters of the amendment campaign in Minnesota declined to be specific about their plans, Adkins suggests that churches will play a key role. “We’ll be doing our own education and organizational efforts within the Catholic community, just like the other groups are,” Adkins said. “The church itself is responsible for educating its people about important issues across the political horizon.”

As in Maine, early polling suggests that Minnesota could be the first state to vote down a referendum seeking to prohibit gay marriage. In May the Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll found that 55 percent of residents were opposed to amending the state’s Constitution to prohibit same-sex nuptials. But Adkins is unfazed by the finding. “I’m not terribly concerned about the polls,” he said. “The only poll I care about is the one on Election Day.”

9 comments

  1. Typical of religious people; everyone must do as they say, and the laws of the state must impose their beliefs on everybody else. Still, better than the old days; modern secular governments do not permit their traditional response to difference: torture and mass murder. Limiting marriage to heterosexuals doesn’t “preserve the instution” any more than did making inter-racial marriage illegal. That was the law in many states until 1969 when it was struck down by the Supreme Court, and many of those states still forbid inter-racial marriage in their penal or criminal codes. It is no wonder that their supporters want to conceal themselves!

  2. As a Mainer, I would like to comment on the 2009 defeat subsequent repeal of Marriage Equality in Maine. The 53/47 split amounted to 30,000 votes in a state of 1.3 million residents. While not all are of voting age, the minuscule number would indicate the split was razor thin.

    Marriage Equality likely will be on the 2012 ballot. Currently, 40,000 of the 50,000 or so signatures have been collected that are needed to have the issue placed on the ballot. This time around, we suspect Marriage Equality to pass and here is why. Connolly’s quotes in the above are accurate. I would add that 2012 is a President election (vs. Maine’s 2009 referendum-only ballot). Presidential elections bring out many young people to vote who are overwhelmingly supportive of Marriage Equality. Add to this the changing attitude across the USA and with New York now having successfully passed Marriage Equality, and you likely will see Maine being the last of the New England States to formerly recognize same-sex marriages. RI has civil unions, I think, but I do not recall the specifics.

    Also, there has been much in the media in Maine about the tactics used by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Even the local leader of the anti-Marriage Equality group has called the tactics used in 2009 as over the top and blatantly wrong. NOM still is fighting in court with the State of Maine for refusing to comply with the statutes in Maine that require groups such as NOM to disclose their donors. Of course, the Marriage Equality group complied with the law.

    Finally, the proposed question on the Maine ballot specifically addresses religious concerns. It reads:

    \Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?\

    Of course, this is redundant. In a civil marriage no church would be forced to perform a ceremony they chose not to. That is the way it is now. I am sure there are churches out there who will not perform marriages between people of different faiths, people who were married and subsequently divorced, and couples of different races. Those churches today are not \forced\ to perform any marriage ceremony. The part that people seem to forget is that in the eyes of the law, the marriage ceremony in a church is just that – a ceremony. It carries no legal weight whatsoever if a state-issued marriage license has not been issued.

    To prove this point consider this case: A heterosexual couple go to City Hall, get a marriage license, and are married by a resident Justice of the Peace. In the eyes of the law, that couple is legally married and can file jointly on their taxes, have custody of their kids, be on each others insurance policy, and all the other legal mumbo-jumbo that we all deal with every day. Now, certain churches might consider that couple \not married.\ Well, if the couple does not belong to the church, or even if they do, it is irrelevant in the eyes of the State. As far as the State goes, they are legally married. Case closed.

    If the church has an issue with this, then they can take it up with the couple assuming that couple belong to their church. As I am not a member of that church, I frankly do not care in the slightest what they think about it.

    Marriage Equality will become the law of the land, eventually. And, the world will not come crashing down because some small percentage of the 3% of the population that is gay decides to get married.

  3. By the grace of God we will stop this perversion of marriage. God is with us.

  4. It is time to tax the churches since they are so involved in politics now. Let’s vote on that!

  5. Do your homework before publishing.

    “Voters in 31 states have considered whether to prohibit same-sex marriage either through statute or constitutional amendment. In every single instance, voters backed initiatives to reserve the right to marry strictly to a man and a woman.”

    In 2006 the ballot measure failed in Arizona. In the Hawai’i case, voters reserved to the legislature, the decision to write marriage law. They didn’t instruct the legislature what to write. It can rewrite the law anytime.

  6. Just another indication that the American Dream is indeed a nightmare and the experiment has ended in failure. What we have is a full half of the nation, no partisan names mentioned but the implications are obvious, whose entire platform is rooted in the deprivation of rights for every group they can set their sights on, save white, evangelical(which includes most Catholics these days), square know-nothings. Isn’t it a pity. I thought we’d at least last as long as the Roman Empire but at this rate, our nation won’t remain intact long enough to see its Tricentennial.

  7. >>ave white, evangelical(which includes most Catholics these days)

    A comment like that shows a mind so badly educated that it should cower in shame.

  8. You have a factual error: Arizona rejected the anti-Gay marriage amendment in 2006, which would have banned marriage and civil unions. It took a 2nd try for the anti-equality side to find an amendment that was a “kinder, gentler bigotry” in 2008 when they removed the anti-Civil Union language.

    More important than the 31 state winning streak (allowing for 2 tries in Arizone) is that the percent support for the anti-Gay side continues to decline.

    2000 California, Prop 22, 62% Anti-Gay
    2008 Califronia, Prop 8, 52% Anti-Gay

    Do the math for the next time this comes before the voters.

  9. This guy has an interesting idea of how the average bisexual relationship works. :/

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