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Minnesota Amendment 1

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Color image of Minnesota Representative Terry Morrow (DFL) speaking on the House floor against SF 1308, 2011.

Minnesota Representative Terry Morrow (DFL) speaks on the House floor against SF 1308. Photographed on May 20, 2011, by Flickr user Tony Webster.

On November 6, 2013, Minnesota voters rejected a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution. Minnesota Amendment 1, also called the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, would have limited marriage to heterosexual couples. When the amendment failed to pass, Minnesota became the first and only state to reject a same-sex marriage ban through the will of voters rather than a court ruling.

Calls to define marriage by amending Minnesota’s constitution date to 2003. At the time, state law already prohibited marriages between people of the same sex. Republican Michele Bachmann, however—then a state senator—urged legislators to add a passage to the state’s constitution that defined marriage in sex-specific terms.

Bachmann introduced marriage bills in the Senate in 2004 and 2006. Both failed. On May 11, 2011, after they had secured majorities in both houses of the state legislature, Senate Republicans passed a bill that created a voter referendum on the definition of marriage. The House approved it on May 21.

The bill (SF 1308) proposed adding a section to article XIII of the constitution that would recognize only marriages between one man and one woman. Representative Tim Kelly of Red Wing, a Republican, voted against it. He was one of four Republicans to do so. Democrats Lyle Koenen of Granite Falls and Denise Dittrich of Champlin voted their support. Though his office did not give him the power to block the bill, Governor Mark Dayton issued a symbolic veto on May 25.

Legislators wrote a ballot question directing voters to vote “yes” or “no” on the amendment (Minnesota Amendment 1) in the November 2012 general election. It asked, “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?”

After the bill passed, advocacy groups mobilized to reach constituents. Leaders from Project 515 and Outfront Minnesota—two LGBT rights groups already active in the Twin Cities—joined to create Minnesotans United for All Families. Volunteers registered voters, held rallies, canvassed door-to-door, and explained what was at stake in the referendum. From its headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesotans United for All Families raised more than $10 million. Its biggest opponent, Minnesotans for Marriage, raised more than $5 million.

Organizers on both sides of the issue received strong support. Catholic groups were particularly involved in the “vote yes” campaign. By May 7, 2012, the Duluth diocese had donated $50,000 from a priest’s estate; the New Ulm diocese had given another $50,000. The largest contribution came from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which donated $650,000.

On September 12, Public Policy Polling (PPP) reported that 48 percent of Minnesotans supported the amendment and 47 percent opposed it. Then the balance began to shift. By November 3, PPP predicted that 45 percent of Minnesotans would vote “yes” and 52 percent would vote “no.”

On November 5, nearly three million people weighed in on the marriage amendment. About 48 percent voted in favor; about 51 percent voted in opposition. An estimated 40,430 people left the question blank. Since the votes in favor did not reach at least 50 percent of all those cast, the amendment failed.

The referendum’s results revealed stark regional and generational divides. The Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area produced the highest concentration of “no” votes.” About 64 percent of Hennepin County voters and 61 percent of Ramsey County voters rejected the amendment. Nine counties tallied at least 70 percent “yes” votes—six of them in the state’s rural southwest. More than 75 percent of Pipestone County voted “yes.” In all counties, a majority of seniors supported the amendment; most voters under the age of thirty opposed it.

The amendment’s failure made Minnesota the first and only state to reject a same-sex marriage ban through the will of voters rather than a court ruling. Energized by the amendment’s defeat, marriage-equality supporters and legislators worked together to draft a bill that legalized marriage between same-sex couples. Governor Dayton signed the bill into law just over six months later, on May 14, 2013.

Having enlisted the help of more than 27,000 volunteers and 67,000 donors, Minnesotans United had accomplished its goal. The group dissolved on May 15.

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Aslanian, Sasha. “Catholic Church a Powerful Force in Marriage Amendment Debate.” MPR News, May 7, 2012.
https://www.mprnews.org/story/2012/05/07/catholics-marriage-amendment

——— . “The Deep Roots of the Marriage Debate.” MPR News, October 25, 2012.
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/2012/campaign/amendments/marriage/timeline/home/

Collins, Jon. “Declaring Same-Sex Marriage Battle Won, Project 515 Ends.” MPR News, May 16, 2014.
http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/05/16/declaring-samesex-marriage-battle-won-project-515-ends-

Grow, Doug. “Meet the Six House Members Who Bucked Their Parties on the Marriage Amendment Vote.” MinnPost, May 25, 2011.
https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2011/05/meet-six-house-members-who-bucked-their-parties-marriage-amendment-vote

Helgeson, Baird, and Eric Roper. “Voters to Determine the Future of Marriage, House Decides.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 22, 2011.
http://www.startribune.com/voters-to-determine-the-future-of-marriage-house-decides/122401039/

Jensen, Tom. “Minnesotans’ Opposition to Marriage Amendment Growing.” Public Policy Polling, June 5, 2012.
http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/06/minnesotans-opposition-to-marriage-amendment-growing.html

Mannix, Andy. “Thank Republicans for Gay Marriage in Minnesota.” TIME, August 1, 2013.
http://nation.time.com/2013/08/01/thank-republicans-for-gay-marriage-in-minnesota/

Minnesota Reference Library. Resources on Minnesota Issues: Same-Sex Marriage in Minnesota.
https://www.leg.state.mn.us/lrl/issues/issues?issue=gay

Minnesota State Legislature. SF 1308.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/pages/doctypes/bills/bill.php?b=Senate&f=SF1308&ssn=0&y=2011

Minnesotans United for All Families records, 2010–2013
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Administrative files, advertising, publicity and outreach materials, awards, correspondence, polls, reports, research files, photographs, files of campaign manager Richard Carlbom, and information about related organizations in Minnesota.

MPR News. Minnesota Marriage Debate.
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/2012/campaign/amendments/marriage/map/#

Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. Elections and Voting. Results for Constitutional Amendments.
http://electionresults.sos.state.mn.us/Results/AmendmentResultsStatewide/1

Office of the Revisor of Statutes. 2013 Minnesota Session Laws.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?id=74&year=2013

Project 515 records, 2005–2014
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Includes articles of incorporation and bylaws, minutes, correspondence and memoranda, committee files, financial data, files of directors and key officials, digitized interviews with board members, information about donors and community support, publications and promotions, and files about related organizations with which Project 515 cooperated.

Public Policy Polling press release, September 12, 2012.
http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_MN_912121.pdf

Public Policy Polling press release, November 3, 2012.
http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_MN_1103.pdf

Ringham, Eric, and Sasha Aslanian. “Eighteen Months to History: How the Minnesota Marriage Amendment Was Defeated—Money, Passion, Allies.” MPR News, November 9, 2012.
http://www.mprnews.org/story/2012/11/09/marriage-how

Related Images

Color image of Minnesota Representative Terry Morrow (DFL) speaking on the House floor against SF 1308, 2011.
Color image of Minnesota Representative Terry Morrow (DFL) speaking on the House floor against SF 1308, 2011.
Color image of demonstrators gathered at the State Capitol in St. Paul to show their opposition to Minnesota Amendment 1. Photographed on May 20, 2011, by Flickr user Flickr user Fibonacci Blue.
Color image of demonstrators gathered at the State Capitol in St. Paul to show their opposition to Minnesota Amendment 1. Photographed on May 20, 2011, by Flickr user Flickr user Fibonacci Blue.
Color image of Demonstrators gather at the State Capitol in St. Paul to show their support of Minnesota Amendment 1. Photographed on May 20, 2011, by Flickr user Tom Morris.
Color image of Demonstrators gather at the State Capitol in St. Paul to show their support of Minnesota Amendment 1. Photographed on May 20, 2011, by Flickr user Tom Morris.
Color image of a cardboard lawn sign distributed by Minnesotans United for All Families in opposition to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, proposed in 2012.
Color image of a cardboard lawn sign distributed by Minnesotans United for All Families in opposition to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, proposed in 2012.
Color image of a Minnesota United for All Families t-shirt, 2012.
Color image of a Minnesota United for All Families t-shirt, 2012.
Minnesota for Marriage logo, ca. 2012.
Minnesota for Marriage logo, ca. 2012.
Color image of civil rights leader Julian Bond and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton confering at a rally held to demonstrate opposition to Minnesota Marriage Amendment 1. Photographed by Bobak Ha’Eri on June 19, 2012.
Color image of civil rights leader Julian Bond and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton confering at a rally held to demonstrate opposition to Minnesota Marriage Amendment 1. Photographed by Bobak Ha’Eri on June 19, 2012.
Color image of the Minnesotans for Marriage booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Photographed by Tony Webster on September 2, 2012.
Color image of the Minnesotans for Marriage booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Photographed by Tony Webster on September 2, 2012.
Map of Minnesota showing the results of the marriage referendum included on ballots for the election held on November 6, 2012. Counties marked in red indicate a majority of “no” votes; counties marked in green indicate a majority of “yes” votes.
Map of Minnesota showing the results of the marriage referendum included on ballots for the election held on November 6, 2012. Counties marked in red indicate a majority of “no” votes; counties marked in green indicate a majority of “yes” votes.

Turning Point

In September of 2012, volunteers working for the group Minnesota United for All Families launch a campaign to start one-on-one conversations with friends and family about why they intend to vote “no” on the marriage amendment in November.

Chronology

1977

The Minnesota Legislature amends a statute to specify that state law recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman.

2003

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) calls for a state-wide constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

2010

In a filmed speech distributed to local Catholics on DVD, Archbishop John Niestedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis stresses the Church’s position that same-sex marriage is untested, dangerous, and bad for families.

May 11, 2011

By a vote of 70-62, the Minnesota House approves a Senate bill to include a referendum on the definition of marriage in the November ballot.

May 21, 2011

The advocacy group Minnesotans United for All Families forms in St. Paul.

May 25, 2011

Governor Mark Dayton issues a symbolic veto of the marriage bill.

May 9, 2012

President Barack Obama announces his support for marriage equality.

September 2012

Minnesotans United for All Families urges its supporters to initiate one-on-one conversations with their friends and family about why they intend to vote “no” on the amendment.

October 2012

Students at Concordia University in Moorhead enter into a public debate on the proposed amendment. Some advocate their views by wearing t-shirts with the slogan, “love is love.” Others favor shirts with the tagline, “Sin is sin.”

November 1, 2012

Over 150 clergy gather at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis for “All Saints: A Day for All Families,” an event held to demonstrate support for marriage equality.

November 6, 2012

On Election Day, Minnesota voters reject the proposed amendment by a margin of 51.9 percent.

May 9, 2013

Members of the Minnesota House of Representatives deliver a 75–59 vote in support of legalizing marriages between same-sex couples.

May 13, 2013

The Minnesota senate approves the bill by a vote of 37–30.

May 14, 2013

Governor Dayton signs the bill into law.

June 26, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee the right of marriage to same-sex couples in all states.