Minnesota Defeats Measure to Ban Same-Sex Marriage
At the end of Election Day, the LGBT community came out four for four on marriage equality, with Minnesotans making history with the first vote against a constitutional amendment that would have excluded same-sex couples from marriage. Also gained were legalizations of same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland, and upholding it in Washington.
"Our huge, happy and historic wave of wins last night signaled irrefutable momentum for the freedom to marry, with voters joining courts, legislatures and the reelected president of the United States in moving the country toward the right side of history," said Freedom to Marry President and Founder Evan Wolfson. "The anti-gay opposition kept moving the goalposts and had as their last talking point that we could not win a popular vote on the freedom to marry. Last night, voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and, all signs suggest, Washington proved them wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong."
More than simply defeating an anti-marriage amendment that was already on the books, Minnesota voters went further by rejecting those lawmakers who advanced the constitutional amendment to the voters, and returning both chambers of the State Legislature to Democratic control. A Democratic majority will replace the Republican majorities that pushed the amendment. And with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton supporting marriage equality, Minnesota could move on marriage equality legislation next year.
"Minnesotans chose to vote on behalf of everyone’s right to a civil marriage," said Jeff Martin, President of the NAACP St. Paul Branch in Minnesota. "Voters are taking a stance for human rights and ensuring the continued expansion of freedoms to all groups." Earlier this year, the NAACP passed a resolution to support marriage equality.
"They affirmed that marriage matters for their gay and lesbian neighbors and friends, as for all of us, and refused to slam the door on marriage in the state constitution," said Freedom to Marry’s Director of Public Engagement Thalia Zepatos, who has been a key adviser to Minnesotans United for All Families. "Now loving and committed couples in Minnesota will be able to work to achieve their dream of crossing the threshold, respected equally under the law."
In the last year and a half, Minnesotans United built a coalition of 700 partner organizations and raised more than $13 million from over 67,000 donors, making it by far the most expensive ballot campaign in state history. It collaborated with faith leaders across the state to reach voters, enlisting opposition to the amendment from five of the six Lutheran synods in the state.
"Minnesotans United worked doggedly day and night to make the case to voters in heartfelt and personal stories and conversations. They recruited thousands of volunteers for ’get out the vote’ efforts and powerfully explained why marriage matters over the airwaves, online and in one-on-one conversations," Zepatos added. "Non-gay people joined gay people across the states to stand up for freedom and fairness, and move Minnesota closer to the freedom to marry for all."
In the past two years, Freedom to Marry has invested $4.6 million into the ballot measure campaigns in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland and Washington, and helped raise another $2.4 million to support public education in these states. The support was critical to helping Minnesotans United reach their goal.
"As soon as our opponents moved a constitutional amendment to the ballot, Freedom to Marry stepped up with leadership, expertise and funding that was crucial to making Minnesota the first state to ever defeat an anti-marriage ballot initiative," said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families.
Pro-Gay Rulings Bode Well For Future of Marriage Equality
Tuesday’s sweeping pro-gay victories make marriage equality the law of the land in eight or nine states, plus the District of Columbia. When you add the five states with civil union laws, this sets the climate for federal marriage equality.
"When voters have the opportunity to really hear directly from loving, committed same-sex couples and their families, they voted for fairness and the freedom to marry. How fitting that four years after Prop. 8 awakened the nation, and the world, to the injustice of marriage for some but not for all committed couples, we have now won at the ballot box," said Courage Campaign Founder and Chair Rick Jacobs.
Now, even if the Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition that eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry, many voters could follow the lead of Maine, Maryland and Washington by adopting a ballot measure. This could ultimately impact the Supreme Court’s decision.
"The Supreme Court can see that America is continuing its historic march towards equality and justice for all. Those who oppose the freedom to marry for committed couples are clearly on the wrong side of history," said Jacobs. "More and more voters are coming to know that gay people are our neighbors, our co-workers, our fellow parishioners, our family and our friends. It won’t be long at all before all loving committed couples have the freedom to marry."
Wolfson shared this sentiment, noting that by reelecting a president who supports the freedom to marry and rejecting the anti-gay candidate, Americans had already created a national atmosphere friendly toward same-sex marriage.
"With the possibility that the Supreme Court may consider a marriage case in the coming months, we are creating the climate that will enable more elected officials, judges and even justices to embrace the freedom to marry, knowing that their support will stand the test of time and, indeed, be true to where the American people already are," said Wolfson.
While some plaudits have already put their nose to the grindstone to tackle LGBT issues from the freedom to marry to teen homelessness to workplace protections, some paused to savor the victory.
"We made history and sent a powerful message that we have truly reached a tipping point on gay and lesbian civil rights in this country. We thought we could win one, maybe two, but winning all four ballot measures on marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington State was truly a landmark," said Brian Ellner, co-founder of TheFour.com, a website advocating for the passage of pro-gay ballot initiatives.
"And by winning for the first time on marriage at the ballot box, we made clear what national polls already show -- that Americans support fairness and equality for all families," he continued. "Questions on civil rights should not be up for popular vote, but because they were, we mobilized. Because of it, as the Supreme Court considers marriage equality this term, the justices now know America is with us. American is ready."