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  • Sasha Issenberg

May 11, 2011: Minnesota legislators send super-DOMA amendment to ballot

TEN YEARS AGO TODAY…

Photo credit: Flickr/@lewismd13

The Minnesota Senate passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, placing the issue on the November 2012 ballot as Amendment 1.


Republicans had retaken both of Minnesota’s legislative chambers amid the right-wing wave of 2010, the first time they had full control of the state’s lawmaking apparatus since the introduction of partisan elections nearly forty years earlier. Party leaders quickly rolled out an agenda that included two proposed constitutional amendments: one that would be a leading indicator of the party’s preoccupations (requiring voters to present photo identification before casting a ballot) and one that lagged.


While legislators in 1997 had passed a DOMA-style bill to define marriage in statute as only between a man and woman, repeated efforts between 2004 and 2009 to upgrade the law to an amendment failed to progress in the legislature. Yet the new Republican majorities quickly voted to put on the next general-election ballot: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”


Governor Mark Dayton held a ceremony to veto the bill. The event had no legal consequence, as a constitutional amendment did not require a gubernatorial signature, and the veto message conceded the action was “symbolic.” But Dayton’s eagerness to be associated with the opposition was an early sign that Minnesota’s Democratic officials would run towards the conflict in November 2012 — the last time any state would give its voters the option to ban same-sex marriage.


The Engagement:
America's Quarter-Century
Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage

​By Sasha Issenberg

The riveting story of the battles over gay marriage
in the United States – the most important
civil-rights breakthrough of the new millennium.
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