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Marriage amendment battle costliest ever

ST. PAUL -- A battle about whether to define marriage as only between a man and woman produced the most expensive Minnesota constitutional amendment campaign ever, but regardless of the outcome nothing will change soon.

As voters entered polling places Tuesday, it appeared the question would be close and Minnesotans would be in for a long wait to see how it came out.

The battle has been brewing for years, with a May 2011 state Legislature vote to put the proposal on the ballot signaling the real start of the most extensive ballot question campaign in state history. In recent days, polls have shown the gap narrowing and for the first time pro-gay marriage forces appeared to have pulled into a virtual tie.

The amendment needed to receive more than half of all votes cast Tuesday, not just those cast for or against the amendment. That Minnesota requirement makes passing amendments more difficult because many voters skip them, so their votes are counted as "no" votes.

For all the talk about allowing same-sex marriage, Tuesday's vote had no direct effect on it. A state law remains on the books banning gay marriage, and it would take an act of the Legislature or the courts to change that.

However, legislative amendment supporters, mostly Republicans, said they want the state Constitution amended because that would provide better protection from lawmakers and judges who may want it overturned.

Six states allow gay marriage: Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Thirty states have amended their constitutions to only allow straight couples to marry, and no proposed amendment has failed in other states.

Minnesotans United for All Families, the main group opposing the amendment, collected $11.2 million for its campaign. The primary supporting group, Minnesota for Marriage, reported raising $3.6 million.

Opponents toured the state in recent days. Both sides worked the telephones.

Republicans' party platform includes support of the amendment, while the Democratic-Farmer-Laborite document opposes it.

However, the issue does not break strictly along party lines. Religion plays a big role.

Religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, have joined hands in support of the amendment.

Religious leaders backing the amendment say the Bible and other religious teachings make it clear that marriage must be only between a man and a woman.

Opponents, however, contend that love is the overarching concern, as in "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Supporters also say children need a man and a woman as parents. Opponents say gay partners are left out of vital health and other decisions if same-sex marriage is not allowed.

Free-lance writers Andrew Tellijohn and Martin Owings contributed to this story.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.