Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Senate kills gay marriage bill

As expected, the DFL-controlled Senate killed the proposed gay marriage amendment in committee, on a 5-4 party-line vote.

There was only one interesting twist:

Senators altered the proposed amendment so that it wouldn't have asked voters to strictly ban the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Instead, it would have prohibited judges from defining marriage in Minnesota, reserving that right for state legislators.

Though one Democrat supported that alteration, all five then proceeded to kill the amendment anyway.

That would almost have made the subsequent campaign interesting.

The DFL did the right thing, but of course they were self-interested as well. Without the amendment on the ballot, social conservatives have less reason to turn out on election day. And that's really what this whole thing was about: Republicans trying to use a wedge issue to get their supporters to the polls, and Democrats trying to foil them.

It cannot be said too often: whatever you think about gay marriage, this amendment is premature. Marriage, for better or worse, is still restricted to men and women in Minnesota. If and when that status is threatened, then we can talk about mucking with the state constitution. Until then, this is just noise, smoke and political grandstanding.

Sen. Michelle Bachmann, the amendment's main backer, has become a single-issue legislator. For that reason alone she should be sent packing in November.

As a side note, Bachmann's openly gay stepsister showed up at the hearing with her partner to "show that the issue affects all Minnesota families." That puts Bachmann in an elite group: antigay activists or politicians with gay relatives. The group includes Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, whose son Jamiel is gay. And Alan Keyes, whose daughter, Maya, is gay.

As Dick Cheney (whose daughter, Mary, is gay) demonstrates, having a gay relative usually makes you more sympathetic to their situation. With the exception of folks like Bachmann, it will get harder and harder to find support for antigay policies as more and more people realize that people they know and care about are gay. When someone makes Dick Cheney look sensitive by comparison, you know they have a compassion deficit.

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