Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

The same-sex marriage debate in Minnesota; Social conservatives for Obama?

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The same-sex marriage debate in Minnesota has become so heated even the Minnesota Vikings are involved. Last weekend former Vikings center Matt Birk published an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, opposing same-sex marriage. However, the real drama started when outspoken gay rights activist and Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Minnesota Republican Rep. Mary Franson exchanged insults over Facebook and Twitter. Kluwe, who has previously made headlines with his obscenity-laced letter to Maryland legislator C. Emmett Burns, was accused by Franson as one of the main opponents of traditional values by whom she feels personally attacked. (You can read Chris Kluwe’s letter, which is in no way appropriate for this blog, here). Although another dirty letter has yet to surface, but Kluwe, in coordination with the LGBT advocacy group Minnesotans for Equality, has challenged Franson to a debate. No date has been set.

One date, however, has been set. On Nov. 6, Minnesotans will vote on an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. This amendment would effectively define marriage as strictly between one man and one woman and prevent the issue from being further discussed in Minnesota legislature. Opponents argue the amendment is unnecessary and simply a measure to tie legislator’s hands, since same-sex marriage is not already legal in the state. Minnesota is one of four states that will be voting on a same-sex marriage issue in November. The others, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, will reversely be voting towards legalizing same-sex marriages. If amended, Minnesota will join 31 other states with the same level of constitutional ban on same-sex unions.

So far thirteen cities have passed resolutions that publicly oppose the ban, however, the latest poll from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune found 47% of Minnesotan voters oppose the amendment, 49% favor it, and 4% remain undecided, an essential dead heat. Both the opposition and the proponents of the ban have been invested in the issue, raising $10 million in support collectively. Minnesota is also the first state to see ads on the issue. Minnesota for Marriage released two ads on Oct.1 in support of the ban. Frank Schubert, Minnesota for Marriage’s campaign manager, estimated the groups spending at $175,000 to run the ads throughout October. Minnesotans United for All Families, a group attempting to defeat the amendment, has run been running ads for the past two weeks.

One could assume Romney could find opportunity in Minnesota with his stance against same-sex marriage, especially after Obama openly announced his support for same-sex marriage in May of this past year. However, Romney’s campaign has chosen not to spend time, money, or a great deal of effort in the land of 10,000 lakes, and there a plenty of legitimate reasons why.

According to the same poll previously mentioned, Romney will not profit from higher Republican voter turnout or independent voters by supporting same-sex marriage. This may be because in general, same-sex marriage does not rank as a top issue for the election. In April, Pew Research found same-sex marriage to be the least most important issue to voters out of 18 different issues presented. This is consistent with the other social issues that have fallen in the shadow of the economy and unemployment rate during this election cycle. Romney also may see backlash from trying to sway independent or social conservative voters. A poll by CNN found 51% of independents tend to lean in favor of same-sex marriage. Furthermore, Blois Olson, a Minnesota political analyst, says there’s still time for opponents of the ban to change the direction of popular opinion: “The poll numbers are very unpredictable. Minnesota is a classic passive-aggressive state. We don’t like to confront people, and because of that it’s harder to tell where the passion lies. As Election Day approaches the aggressive side is likely to come out closer to the end of the race.” This could be especially detrimental considering Minnesota leads the country in voter turnout, seeing a record-breaking 78% turnout in 2008. This high turnout alludes that because Minnesotans are dedicated and dependable voters there are few non-committal voters to nab in the race.

The key to Minnesota could be to ally with the Catholic Church. Minnesota’s Roman Catholic bishops have been especially vocal about this issue, urging the estimated 400,000 churchgoers to donate money for Minnesota for Marriage’s TV ads Minnesota for Marriage is one of the main groups pushing for the amendment and is closely tied with the state’s Catholic hierarchy. The Catholic Church has already been the largest contributor to the group. Still, there is dissent within the church like the group Catholics for Marriage equality which has passed out flyers and yard sings.

Romney’s campaign decided not to open a campaign office in the state, and on the same day of the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, which is a regular and popular stop for politicians, Romney attended a dinner that cost couples $50,000 each instead. It seems Romney does not see Minnesota having any value, besides financial value. Let’s not forget the GOP hoped to sway voters in the 2008 election by holding the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes still went to Obama. It seems there is not a lot of room for opportunity in Minnesota and Romney is smart to cute his loses. Romney may also note to steer clear of Kluwe.

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