Minnesota gay marriage battle echoes in Colorado

(image: Alan Light, Flickr)

Colorado hosted an intense proxy gay marriage debate around a same-sex civil unions bill during the state legislative session that ended two weeks ago. The bill was narrowly defeated pretty much along party lines. All Democrats voted for it, joined by a few Republicans. That’s roughly what happened in recent weeks in Minnesota, where lawmakers voted to include a referendum on voter ballots in the next election that would add a ban on gay marriage to the state constitution. Much of the Minnesota clash has been captured on YouTube. It echoes the debate last month in Colorado and foreshadows the debate sure to rise again here next year, when sponsors of the civil unions bill have vowed to bring it back.

As in Colorado, debate in Minnesota over gay unions raised vital questions about individual rights, about the role of the government in awarding or denying those rights and about the separation of church and state.

Below a sample from St. Paul, where gay rights supporters gathered and where Republican Representative and Iraq war veteran John Kriesel made an impassioned plea to his caucus members to vote against the gay marriage ban.

Kriesel lost his legs in Iraq. He told his colleagues, “This amendment doesn’t represent what I went to [Iraq] to fight for.

“Hear that sound out there,” he said referring to the rally in support of gay rights, “that’s what I fought for…. Please vote no. Stand up for freedom.”

Republican Rep. Tim Kelly joined Kriesel in voting against the proposed referendum.

“I can’t help but feel this is an assault on personal freedom and choice.” Passage of the amendment, he said, would “diminish the sacrifices made by Rep. Kriesel and all the men and women who died fighting for the freedoms of individuals.”

“We hide behind the fact that ‘we’re just bringing this to the people. We’re just going to give a voice to the people,’” he said. “Well, I think we can look back in history and see that we’re littered with choices by the people that were very hurtful. All we have to do is look back to the ’50s and ’60s and see where prejudice and discrimination were at its height. ”

Moments later, Kelly questioned Kriesel about why he served in Iraq.

“I chose to go to Iraq to defend our way of life, our freedom, and promote freedom to an oppressed group of people on the other side of the world that deserve it,” Kriesel replied.

Read more at the Minnesota Independent.