For the second time in American history, voters have rejected a ballot measure proposing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Minnesota was joined by Maine, Maryland and Washington in putting a same-sex marriage question before voters this year on Election Day. However, unlike the other three states, which asked voters to approve of an extension of rights to same-sex couples, the Minnesota question asked voters to codify in the state constitution the current prohibition on same-sex marriage, which is more difficult to later undo.
According to the Minnesota secretary of state, only 47 percent of eligible voters had cast votes in support of the amendment at the time this was published, just below the majority needed.
The only other state to reject such an amendment was Arizona in 2006 with Proposition 107, which would have banned in the state constitution recognition of both marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. However, in 2008, a less-restrictive constitutional amendment was approved by voters.
In Minnesota — unlike other states — the law dictates that for a constitutional amendment to pass, it must be supported beyond simply having more yes votes than no votes, according to the Star Tribune. For the amendment to pass, the number of yes votes must be equal to or greater than 51 percent of the total number of voters casting votes in that election. This means that if the amendment had received more yes votes than no votes, but the number of yes votes was fewer than 51 percent of the total number of people casting ballots this year, the amendment still fails. Since some voters opt not to vote on ballot measures, this scenario was one very possible outcome this election night.
A final Star Tribune poll prior to voting put opposition to the amendment at 47 percent, but support only 1 percent higher at 48.
According to the Associated Press, supporters of the amendment poured $5 million into the campaign producing television and radio ads, rallies and electioneering materials, however opponents of the amendment far outspent the backers, raising over $11 million.
Amendment 1, which read “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman,” was opposed by more than 30 businesses and organizations, including the state conferences of the Unitarian Universalist Church, the Minneapolis area synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Minnesota’s state Democratic party, General Mills, Thompson Reuters and a myriad of city councils, hospitals, colleges, unions and professional associations.
The amendment was also opposed by Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, as well as President Barack Obama, and outspoken Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. The constitutional amendment was supported publicly by the Minnesota Catholic Conference and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Despite the $5 million ad blitz urging voters to support amending the constitution, David Wiczer, a straight doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, voted against the amendment because he believes it delays the inevitable.
“I voted no on that,” Wiczer told the Blade. “I believe that gay marriage ought to be legal, so enshrining a restriction in the constitution will set back progress on that greatly. It seemed to me as a way to erect a bulwark against a cause that’s eventually going to happen.”
With the exception of Arizona, before election night, every electorate that had voted on barring same-sex marriage had approved their constitutional amendment.
Alaska and Hawaii were the first states to bar same-sex nuptials in their constitutions in 1998. Nebraska and Nevada followed in 2000 and 2002 respectively, then in 2004, 13 states voted to add amendments to their constitutions: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah. Kansas and Texas followed in 2005, while Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin followed in 2006. Since then California, Florida and North Carolina have all also amended their state constitutions to bar same-sex marriages and — in some cases — civil unions and other forms of domestic contracts as well, bringing to 31 the number of states that do.
Before election night, six states and the District of Columbia have extended the full rights and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Also before election night, nine states had barred same-sex marriage in law, but not through constitutional amendment: Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wyoming.