MARSHALL - There are just 27 days left before Minnesotans will be faced with some important choices at the polls. That means it's more important now than ever to start some honest discussions about the state's proposed constitutional marriage amendment, Richard Carlbom said Wednesday night.
"The polls are close," Carlbom said. "Anybody could win this thing."
Carlbom, a member of the organization Minnesotans United for All Families, was the keynote speaker at an event Wednesday night at Southwest Minnesota State University. A large crowd of students and area residents were gathered to hear a panel discussion and question-and-answer session on the marriage amendment. Panelists included SMSU students, faculty, clergy and area community members.
On Nov. 6, the question of whether the Minnesota Constitution should be amended to recognize only marriages between one man and one woman will be put to voters. Carlbom said the stakes are high for opponents of the marriage amendment. Similar votes have come before other states 30 times before, he said.
"Each and every one of those times, it's passed," Carlbom said. However, he said recent polls have shown growing opposition to the amendment.
Speakers at the panel urged audience members to talk to people in their community about the amendment. It's through finding common ground that the best arguments against the amendment are made, they said.
"The conversations we've been having are meaningful. They're authentic, they're real," Carlbom said.
Several audience questions asked about the current legal status of same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Panelist Cecil Naatz, a public defender in Lyon County, said same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota, and there are no state statutes for civil unions. However, the Legislature could vote to change the current laws. That may explain the push to have marriage put into the state constitution, he said.
"By embodying it in the Constitution, they couldn't even do that," Naatz said.
Naatz said he thought it didn't make sense to use the state constitution to say who can and cannot marry.
"The Constitution is in place to limit what the government can do to people," Naatz said. The marriage amendment would be a government intrusion into people's rights.
Allowing same-sex marriages in Minnesota would not take away anyone's rights or force people to change their beliefs, said panelist and SMSU student Derick Schultz. Instead, it would give people who are gay or lesbian equal rights to get married, he said.
"Marriage, I believe, is a human right," Schultz said.
Panelists said voting "no" on the marriage amendment didn't mean the definition of marriage would change, either.
"I think marriage is a caring, loving relationship between two adults," said panelist Dorothy McCoy, a member of the Buffalo Ridge PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group. The genders of a married couple don't change that relationship, she said.
"The core values of what a marriage embodies will remain the same," he said.