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Session 2004

Session 2004: Social Issues



ISSUE UPDATE
One of the most divisive issues of the session was a bill that would have allowed voters to decide in November whether the state constitution should be amended to specifically ban gay marriage. The House passed the bill early in the session, but it failed in a Senate committee and Senate Democrats repeatedly rebuffed efforts to get a vote on the floor. In Minnesota, a so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" enacted in 1997 requires marriages to be between members of the opposite sex and prevents the state from recognizing same-sex unions granted by other states. A majority of states have passed similar legislation and several have amended their constitutions. Proponents of the constitutional amendment say the change is needed to ensure judges here don't interpret the law as did the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which ruled that gay marriage must be allowed. Laws can be easily changed from year to year, but amending the constitution is more difficult, requiring the direct approval of voters.

Despite a half dozen major proposals to do so, the Legislature did not agree on any bills to expand gambling in Minnesota. The Republican House had pushed hardest and Gov. Tim Pawlenty never quite said no, hinting that tribes with casinos would do well to voluntarily share profits with the state or risk facing new competition. A "racino" plan would have allowed slot machines at the Canterbury Park horse track. Another idea would have put a new casino in the northern Twin Cities suburbs that would share profits with the White Earth and Red Lake bands who now don't earn as much from casinos as other tribes. Another would have allowed slot machines in bars. The closest the Senate came to support was when the Senate Tax Committee passed a hybrid bill in the final days of the session. By then, there wasn't enough time for it to move.

As the Legislature prepares to overhaul Minnesota's child support guidelines for the first time in more than 20 years, parents across the state are watching closely. (03/01/2004)
The debate over gay marriage is intensifying. President Bush supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions. The issue is also brewing in at least 35 legislatures, including Minnesota. The backlash is surprising to one Minnesota couple who recently married in San Francisco. (02/26/2004)
Minnesota grocers are attempting to resurrect a proposal that would allow them to sell wine in their stores. The "Wine With Dinner" bill would make it easier for customers to do all of their shopping in just one stop. The bill has gone nowhere in the past three legislative sessions because of strong opposition from the liquor industry and public health groups. (02/20/2004)
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, are Gary Eichten's guests to discuss the gay marriage issue in Minnesota. Bachmann supports a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and Dibble opposes it. ( 02/12/2004)
Dozens of lawmakers are prepared to stand behind a bill that would deny public money to institutions that conduct research on human embryos. The bill is a threat to the University of Minnesota, where officials announced that they will pursue embryonic stem cell research. (02/12/2004)
Minnesota residents talk a lot about the great quality of life they have. The state has enjoyed a national reputation for good schools and supportive children's programs. But that image has taken a hit lately. Funding for low income daycare has been chopped. Lawmakers will struggle again this year to make up a deficit that could total $500 million. It's a situation that may leave some families, scrambling to pay the daycare bill. (02/09/2004)
The debate over gay marriage got a headstart in a House committee on Wednesday. Minnesota already has a law that forbids gay marriage, but some worry that legal challenges could render those laws unconstitutional. They argue that an amendment to the state constitution is necessary to ensure the ban stays in place. Opponents say it's unnecessary and is discriminatory to members of the gay community. (01/28/2004)
More than 2,000 opponents of legalized abortion braved the cold for a rally in front of the Capitol Thursday, while supporters held their own event -- a prayer breakfast and program. (01/22/2004)
For the first time in at least a generation, the governor, the House leadership, and now the Senate leadership all publicly favor restrictions on abortion access. The selection Tuesday of Willmar DFLer Dean Johnson as Senate majority leader is being greeted enthusiastically by abortion opponents. But supporters of legal abortion say they're confident Johnson will remain fair and impartial during upcoming debates. (01/14/2004)
Governor Pawlenty says Minnesota can eliminate chronic homelessness in seven years. His proposal calls for borrowing $20 million in the first year for affordable housing, and drawing millions more from government and the private sector. ( 01/09/2004)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is offering a $20 million downpayment on what he says is an effort to eliminate chronic homelessness in Minnesota by 2010. Pawlenty says he'll ask lawmakers to borrow the funding during the upcoming legislative session, but critics of the administration say the governor's plan won't make up for spending cuts made last year as part of a multi-billion dollar deficit reduction plan. (01/07/2004)
Minnesota advocates for crime victims are learning how state budget cuts will affect their programs. The programs help battered women and abused children. They provide a variety of services from emergency shelter to help navigating the judicial system. Some service providers and state lawmakers say rural areas were unfairly targeted for cuts. (12/01/2003)

Session 2004

DocumentBonding
DocumentEducation
DocumentFinances and Taxes
DocumentGambling
DocumentHealth Care
DocumentPublic Safety
DocumentSocial Issues
DocumentSocial Services
DocumentStadium Issues
DocumentTransportation

Audio Highlights

Audio The gay marriage debate(3/9/04)
Ann DeGroot, executive director of OutFront Minnesota; Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council. (Midday)