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Session 2004

Session 2004: Social Issues

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.

Controversy over same-sex marriage threatens to scuttle chances for a special legislative session to address this year's many unresolved budget and policy issues. Lawmakers adjourned their regular session earlier this month without taking action on reducing the state's projected deficit, making infrastructure improvements, or enhancing public safety. While many lawmakers say they'd like a second chance to address those matters, Gov. Tim Pawlenty says they could all be lost in the argument over gay marriage. (05/25/2004)
When University of Minnesota officials announced recently they would pursue human embryonic stem cell research, they made a pledge to keep the controversial process open to public scrutiny. To that end, the university held a public forum Tuesday night to discuss the science and ethical issues behind the new research policy. (04/14/2004)
A recent poll from the Minneapolis Star Tribune suggests that civil unions for same sex couples could be more acceptable than marriage to a majority of voting-eligible Minnesotans. Are there other commitments that don't go so far as marriage, but are just as good? And how do same sex couples view the differences? ( 04/07/2004)
In the Minnesota House, lawmakers are expected to debate an amendment that would require drivers license tests be given only in English. The amendment was proposed earlier this week as an addition to a larger transportation bill. The written portion of the Minnesota drivers license exam is currently given in several languages, including Hmong, Somali, and Spanish. <I>Morning Edition</I> host Cathy Wurzer spoke with Republican Representative Marty Siefert, sponsor of the amendment. (04/07/2004)
Everyone's talking about marriage these days. The debate rages from pulpits to the Legislature. Most of the discussion centers on who can get married -- whether gays and lesbians should have that right. We wanted to back up a step and ask, What <b>is</b> marriage? We put that question to some married couples. (04/06/2004)
The Minnesota Family Council is taking to the airwaves in the debate over banning gay marriage. The group plans to start running radio ads on Friday in the districts of 10 senators who voted against allowing a gay marriage bill to go to the floor before it had a committee hearing. (04/01/2004)
The Senate Judiciary Committee has defeated a proposal that would allow the voters to decide if the Minnesota Constitution should ban same-sex marriage. The committee defeated the proposal on a 5-4 vote. Senate sponsors of the measure have said they expected defeat in the committee. They've said they'll continue to try to bring the issue to the Senate floor until the end of the legislative session. (03/26/2004)
The fate of a constitutional same-sex marriage ban could largely be decided Friday when a Minnesota Senate committee considers whether the issue should go on the November ballot. Supporters of the constitutional ban say they want to ensure that Minnesota's Defense of Marriage Act cannot be overturned in the courts. But opponents say they want gay couples to have the same civil rights and legal benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. The civil rights argument has caused concern among some African American religious leaders in Minnesota, especially when it's compared to the fight for racial equality. They argue that the civil rights struggle is completely different than the gay marriage issue. (03/26/2004)
Earlier this week, thousands of supporters of a same-sex marriage ban swarmed the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to put the issue before voters. A similar number of opponents showed up Thursday to urge just the opposite. The House passed a measure Wednesday that would put a constitutional amendment question on the ballot in November, but it could be defeated in a Senate committee Friday. (03/25/2004)
The Minnesota House has voted in favor of letting voters decide whether the Minnesota Constitution should be changed to ban same sex marriage. After a relatively short but somewhat emotional debate, the House voted 88-42 in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment. Supporters say the measure is needed to ensure that marriage remains between one man and one woman. Opponents, however, say the proposal is divisive and is divert attention from the state's real problems. (03/24/2004)
On the eve of key legislative votes on a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage, lobbying on both sides of the issue has intensified. The House is scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday, and the bill will get a Senate hearing on Friday. Supporters of the measure have focused most of their efforts on the Senate, where the prospects for passage are uncertain. (03/23/2004)
Several thousand people attended a rally at the Capitol on Monday in support of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Supporters of the ban say they want the Minnesota constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. While ban supporters rallied outside the Capitol, their allies in the Senate tried, but failed, to force a floor vote. Opponents of the amendment say the measure is mean spirited and would codify discrimination in the Minnesota constitution. (03/22/2004)
A Senate committee has approved a bill that would erase any doubts about the legality of the University of Minnesota's stem-cell research. (03/11/2004)
A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Minnesota receives its first hearing Tuesday afternoon in the Minnesota House. Supporters of the proposal say the amendment is necessary to ensure that the courts will not recognize the marriage of same sex couples. Opponents say the amendment is discriminatory and has no place in Minnesota's Constitution. (03/09/2004)
Minnesota lawmakers begin debate Tuesday on a bill that could lead to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The constitution would state: &quot;only the union of one man and one woman will be recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.&quot; ( 03/09/2004)

Session 2004

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DocumentSocial Issues
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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)