A group of Minnesota Republicans have joined a coalition opposing a constitutional amendment that, if approved by a majority of voters next November, would ban same-sex marriage.
A state legislator, party operatives and a University of Minnesota law professor gathered in St. Paul on Thursday to announce that their own organizations — Republicans Against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment and Log Cabin Republicans — will buck party lines and join forces with Minnesotans United for All Families to defeat the amendment.
Each of the speakers said the move to ban same-sex couples from marrying in the state’s constitution was against Republican values.
Wheelock Whitney, an 85-year-old “lifelong Republican,” political advisor and former gubernatorial candidate, said same-sex marriage isn’t a generational issue.
“There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, in my value system that supports marriage bans for our constitution,” he said.
Whitney donated $10,000 to Minnesotans United for All Families and urged other Republicans to follow suit.
“I have a gay son and a gay grandson,” Whitney said as he introduced his grandson, Alexander Whitney. “I love them, I’m proud of them, and I don’t like to see them discriminated against in any way.”
The Legislature approved a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex couples from marrying in May. State law already prohibits gay marriage, but a ban in the state’s constitution would be much harder to reverse. Minnesotans will vote on the measure Nov. 6, 2012.
Dale Carpenter, a professor at the University’s Law School and RAMMA board member, argued against the amendment, which he said simply restates existing state law.
Proponents of the amendment have said it is the right of the public — not the courts or the Legislature — to decide on the issue.
“I think the Republican party leaves that issue very much to your own personal tastes,” said Julie Collier, president of the University of Minnesota College Republicans. “I think the biggest issue we’re facing is the debt.”
The Minnesota Family Council spent much of its time and resources lobbying to ensure the amendment’s passage in the spring. Once successful, the organization joined with the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage to encourage Minnesotans to vote “yes” next November.
“We view the next year and a half as an opportunity to engage the people of Minnesota in a discussion on the importance of marriage, and why children having a mother and a father is important, and why that should be state policy,” MFC President Tom Prichard previously told the Minnesota Daily.
“Certainly the amendment will require a lot of work and effort, but we think people will be supportive of it,” he said.
Every Republican in the state Senate voted in favor of the amendment, and four in the House of Representatives voted against it. Among them was Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, who was also a part of the Republican group on Thursday.
Kriesel was an outspoken opponent of the amendment in the House, where the bill passed after six hours of emotional debate.
“I am a Republican because I believe in individual liberties and freedoms, and I think this is an attack on that,” he said. “I don’t think neighbors should be voting on what their neighbors can or can’t do.”
Minnesotans United for All Families campaign manager Richard Carlbom said he was happy to add Republican support to his cause.
“It’s a broad-based coalition for everyone to be a part of,” he said.