Below is an article from today’s Star Tribune. The Trib is generally on the liberal side of everything, so it’s nice that this even gets mentioned by them. I have blogged on this issue previously. Minnesotans need their day in the polling booth to decide this issue. This also shows the disparity between the metro area politics and the rest of the state. The metro area is enormously more liberal than the rest of the state, and the bulk of the population lives in the metro area, so it does come strongly into play on this issue. Let us vote!

Minnesota Poll: Same-sex unions lose support

A new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll shows that 52 percent of adults in the state oppose gay and lesbian legal unions while 38 percent favor them. The opposition is an increase of 10 percentage points over last year.

Overall, 51 percent of those polled also agree that a constitutional amendment is needed in Minnesota. Forty-six percent agree strongly.

The increase in the opposition to legal unions, which would give same-sex partners many of the same rights as married couples, comes from a 10-percentage-point rise in those who say they are strongly opposed to the idea. The trend, critics say, reflects a nationwide marketing effort by conservatives and religious groups to sway opinions on what has become one of the most divisive issues of the day.

“The way the conversation is being framed is not a good way for our democracy to make decisions. It polarizes the issue to such a degree that the conversation becomes really stilted,” said Ann DeGroot, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, which represents the state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. (I disagree with DeGroot here. The conversation is very democratic if we get to vote on it. If only a small minority of the population (GLBT) wag the rest of the dog, that is very un-democratic. She uses this inflammatory rhetoric speak because she is in the weak position. Rather than objectively look at it, she strikes out to paint her opponents as the “bad guys”.)

The increase in opposition to gay and lesbian legal unions is “phenomenal,” said Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, who has been a leader in pushing to put the amendment on the state ballot.

She said the increase in strong opposition shows that people are thinking about the personal impact of the issue as states such as California and Massachusetts and countries such as Canada and Belgium wrestle with the status of gay and lesbian couples.

“I think this tells us that people are recognizing that this has an impact on our children, our workplace, our places of worship, our schools,” Bachmann said. “This is more than an issue affecting a small percentage of the population. This has the potential for affecting everyone.”

One man’s view

Poll respondent Rick Schwantes of Willmar is a husband, a father of two children and a “not overly religious” Catholic. He considers himself a Republican but prides himself on not toeing any ideological line. He tells his children that this is a free country and they need to be respectful of other beliefs. Schwantes says all these enter in his decisions on social issues.

But when it comes to same- sex marriage, the 46-year-old Schwantes, a finance manager for Jennie-O Turkey Store, says there is no flexibility. He is adamantly opposed to allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into any legal unions. He also strongly supports a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage.

“It’s a man-and-woman deal. There is a moral issue there,” he said “This country is founded on choice. They’ve made their choice; that’s the lifestyle they want to lead. But don’t push it any further than that.”

Like Schwantes, 46 percent of poll respondents say they are strongly opposed to the idea of legal unions.

Outstate residents broadly oppose same-sex legal unions (62 percent) as do people identifying themselves as Republican (73 percent). Sixty-two percent of those 65 years old or older oppose it.

Minnesotans between 18 and 24 years old are more likely to support legal unions (57 percent).

Monika Irwin, of Zimmerman, says her opposition to legal unions for gays and lesbians has nothing to do with morality but with economics.

“It’s difficult enough for males and females who get married nowadays to gain benefits from an employer. You add lesbian and gay couples, and an employer is going to say, ‘Forget it. I’m not going to pay health insurance at all. It’s just too much,’ ” said Irwin, 58, a retired psychologist who describes herself as a political moderate with many gay and lesbian friends.

Positions hardening

Much as the Roe vs. Wade court decision crystallized positions on abortion, there seems to be less middle ground as the same-sex marriage debate continues to mix religious beliefs with politics, said Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood. Slawik has spoken on the House floor about her opposition to gay marriage but her belief that a constitutional amendment is not needed.

“This is a struggle because supporting a constitutional amendment is now defined as a ‘Christian’ issue even though I might think that saying it’s OK to hate somebody is a very un-Christian position to take,” she said. “I wish their were a gray button to push.”

The results come late in a legislative session as the constitutional amendment debate languishes in the Senate. While the House approved the measure in April, it remains unclear whether the proposal will be heard this year in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, has indicated that there is no need for a vote this year because the amendment would not be on the ballot until 2006.

During the most recent House races, billboards and targeted ads focused on previous votes on the gay marriage issue. The issue is likely to play a role in 2006, when seats are up in the House and Senate.

Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, which supports an amendment opposing same-sex marriage, suggested that opposition to same-sex marriage will be an important factor among strong believers going to the polls.

In a statewide survey conducted for the council in February, 49 percent of those questioned said they would be less likely to reelect a state senator if he or she didn’t allow a vote on the amendment, while 10 percent said they would be more likely to vote to reelect such a senator.

“The pro-marriage side is definitely becoming stronger as there is more discussion about it,” Prichard said.