Saturday, May 14, 2011

The time is now

(Note: be sure to read Spot's riposte to Jason Lewis's column justifying marriage discrimination below this post too.)

The Senate floor debate on the Marriage Discrimination Amendment was utterly predictable. In the face of impassioned pleas from opponents, supporters sat silently and let Warren Limmer do the talking for them. Then they voted. Geoff Michel was "proud" of his caucus.

Soon after the vote, the very same Minnesota Poll that showed 80% of Minnesotans favored Voter ID returned a 55%-39% verdict against the Marriage Discrimination Amendment. Eighteen months is a long time from now and polls are fickle things, but this was hardly good news for those pushing an amendment.

Limmer's argument, repeated over and over and over - "let the people vote." "Let the people decide." Last month, I argued that the only way to blunt the force of this argument was to offer a countervailing constitutional amendment to guarantee marriage equality. Saturday, a number of DFL'ers introduced a bill that would create marriage equality through statute. Good on them. It's past time to stake out a position other than "we already have discrimination in law, isn't that enough?"

But there's still an opportunity to make this point clearly - offer a side-by-side Marriage Equality Amendment as a floor amendment if the GOP persists in attempting to write discrimination into the constitution. The goal: call the bluff of the GOP on the "let the people decide" argument. If we're really going to let the people decide, let's offer them the option of marriage equality alongside marriage discrimination.

There is one problem. According to the 2011-12 Permanent Rules of the House, a constitutional amendment may not be offered as an amendment to a bill on the floor. Of course, rules are made to be broken, or at least suspended. A debate over a Marriage Equality Amendment as a side-along amendment can be forced through a motion to suspend the rules on the House floor. According to the House rules, motions to suspend the rules are considered under motions and resolutions, the last order of business for the day after the general calendar. In other words, the time to have this debate is the day before the Marriage Discrimination Amendment hits the floor. Since the amendment has one last stop in the House Rules committee at 5 PM Monday, Monday's floor session is the perfect time to have this debate. And then, for good measure, a similar motion can be brought again at the House Rules committee hearing if it fails.

And yes, it would fail. There's no way 2/3rds of the House would allow suspension of the rules. But it would provide a powerful counterpoint to the "let the people decide" argument on the House floor and on the campaign trail next year.

Show up at the Capitol at 11:30 AM Monday to rally against the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, details here.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

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