‘That’s not pro-liberty’: Conservative Minnesota group opposes anti-gay marriage amendment

While Minnesota Republicans are spearheading the contentious move to put a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage on the ballot next year, not all conservatives are behind them. In recent weeks, a number of conservatives — ranging from small-government and libertarian groups to gay Republicans — have spoken out against codification of marriage laws within the Minnesota Constitution. Some say the amendment is contrary to liberty, while others have taken on social conservative groups such as the Minnesota Family Council.

Minnesotans for Limited Government is a conservative political action committee that favors smaller government and supports Ron Paul for president. It came out against the GOP-backed anti–gay marriage amendment this week.

“It has always been the stance of MNLG that marriage is a sacrament, and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the state. We do not approve of any amendment or legislation that further seeks to define Marriage, because it is an infringement on two ideas,” wrote the group’s chair, Jake Barnett. “First, it reinforces the idea that the Government has the right to treat certain individuals differently than others, and second, it further removes Marriage from its original jurisdiction as a sacrament of faith.”

Barnett said that MNLG believes the state should not be involved with religious marriage.

“Under our policy, both heterosexual and homosexual couples could have their unions recognized by the state, but could not call their union a Marriage unless they sought the blessing of a Church. We do not believe any Church should be compelled to marry same-sex couples, but at the same time we respect the rights of Churches to do so if they choose.”

LGBT conservatives have also found the amendment problematic. The Minnesota Log Cabin Republicans are lobbying aggressively against the measure.

“In 2010, Log Cabin Republicans celebrated when the GOP took control of the Minnesota House and Senate. We looked forward to Republican legislators obeying a voter mandate to put a laser focus on the out-of-control spending at the State Capitol. It is deeply disappointing to see members of our party turn away from that mission in favor of a divisive social agenda,” Ken Smoron, Log Cabin’s vice president, said in a statement. “At a time when job creation, the economy, taxes, and the state’s budget are of utmost concern for Minnesota families and businesses, the proposed amendment is anti-liberty, anti-family, and a distraction that Minnesota just can’t afford.”

He added, “If we want to be more than a one-term majority we must focus on the issues that unite us as Republicans and Minnesotans. The days of using the lives of gay and lesbian Americans as a political wedge issue are over.”

The Libertarian Party of Minnesota held an “unusual” special meeting on May 7 to deliberate on the amendment. Party officials there unanimously condemned the marriage amendment.

“The proposed Gay Marriage Ban would expand government control and restrict the freedom of consenting adults to live their own lives as they choose. Libertarians believe that marriage is a private matter between individuals,” the party wrote. “We believe that marriage is a fundamental human right, and that all personal relationships, including marriage, should be at the sole discretion and agreement of the individuals involved, as well as any family, friends, or religious institutions they may choose to involve.”

It added, “We also oppose any attempt to place a marriage ban before voters, as the trappings of democracy do not legitimize infringements upon personal liberty; a 51 percent majority does not have the right to force its will upon the other 49 percent. We instead support a free society, where 1% can still be free to live their own lives as they choose, even if 99% might disapprove.”

The party also said it supports the repeal of the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which bars same-sex couples from marrying.

The party’s vice chair, S.L. Mallek, appeared on the Late Debate, a conservative talk radio show in the northern Twin Cities suburbs.

“It’s about having parents that care about the child, not the gender of these parents,” Mallek said.

The Late Debate is hosted by Jack Tomczak, who has worked for Rep. Michele Bachmann and Tom Emmer, and Ben Kruse, a designer and media consultant who’s done work for a number of Republican campaigns.

Kruse agreed with Mallek. “I think if this passes, in 20 years, it will be repealed. I think Republicans will be on the wrong side of history on this one.”

Mallek added, “Government trying to legislate personal relationships… that’s not pro-liberty.”

In a separate episode of the Late Debate, Kruse and the Minnesota Family Council’s Tom Prichard engaged in a heated debate on the conservative principles regarding support or opposition to same-sex marriage.

“What it boils down to: Straight marriage isn’t very good,” Kruse said. “So why are we trying to exclude people who haven’t been given the opportunity to prove they can be very good parents.”

He said the gay marriage debate “distracts us from the parenting problem in this country.”

Listen to the debate between Kruse and Prichard:

Some Republicans have come out in support of same-sex marriage in recent months as well. Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, recently told the press that he opposes the amendment. “I look at it as: We are all equal,” he said.

Marriage equality seems to be an issue that is drawing GOP supporters elsewhere, too. Longtime GOP donors are starting to back efforts to make same-sex marriage legal in New York, with GOP contributors like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Paul E. Singer, described by the New York Times as “one of the most generous Republican donors in the country,” kicking in funds.

“I think it is important in particular for Republicans to know this is a bipartisan issue,” Republican donor Daniel S. Loeb told Times. “If they’re Republican, they will not be abandoned by the party for supporting this. On the contrary, I think they will find that there is a whole new world of people who will support them on an ongoing basis if they support this cause.”

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Andy Birkey

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