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Kurt Strazdins, MCT

Minnesota Poll: Support falls for ban on gay marriage

  • Article by: RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER
  • Star Tribune
  • May 13, 2011 - 6:53 PM

A majority of Minnesotans oppose amending the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said they oppose adding such an amendment while 39 percent favor a constitutional ban -- views that appear to be a sharp reversal of poll results seven years ago.

Opposition to the ban generally cuts across all ages, though support rises gradually with age. Sixty percent of Minnesotans aged 18 to 34 oppose the idea. A slim majority, 51 percent, of Minnesotans older than 65 oppose the constitutional ban. "We should have our own choices and abilities to chose what we want and not have someone categorize or label people because of their sexual orientation," said Adam Leistiko, a 22-year-old Democrat from Edina who opposes the marriage amendment. "I have a very open mind."

After a long and emotional debate, the Minnesota Senate approved the amendment this week. The state House is expected to soon follow suit. If lawmakers approve, voters would be asked in the 2012 election whether the Constitution should be amended to "provide that only a union of one man and one woman" be recognized as marriage. Gov. Mark Dayton, a supporter of same-sex marriage, has no power to stop constitutional amendments. To amend the Constitution, questions need approval from a majority of lawmakers and then a simple majority of those voting in a general election.

Over the last decade, as a series of states have taken up and passed bans on gay marriage, opinions have changed on the issue. A 2004 Minnesota Poll found that 58 percent of Minnesotans supported a constitutional amendment that would limit marriage to one man and one woman.

Views in the latest poll did, however, break along party lines. Seventy-one percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independent voters said they oppose the proposed amendment. Sixty-five percent of self-identified Republicans back the amendment, with only 30 percent opposing it. All of the Senate Republicans, plus one DFLer, approved the measure this week.

Doug Regester, who calls himself a conservative who votes for Republicans, is among those who support an election to place the ban in the state Constitution. "If there is a way to give the people the say rather than just having a few politicians decide, I'm all for that," said Regester, a 53-year-old personal trainer from Minneapolis. He said limiting marriage to a union between one man and one woman has been shown "over the centuries" to be "the most beneficial to society."

Brad Finke, a 46-year-old mechanic from Austin, disagrees. "I think it is a big waste of time and money. They've got more important things to worry about," said Finke, a Democrat.

At the Capitol, amendment supporters and opponents took the poll results in stride. "To me, this is not an issue that is driven by polls," said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. He voted for the amendment this week and is sponsoring an amendment measure. "The choice is you either let the court decide ... or you bring it to a vote of the people and you let the people decide."

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said he was pleased but unsurprised by the numbers. "Public opinion has been moving on this issue for some time, probably farther and faster than most folks expected, including myself," Dibble said. He ardently opposes the amendment.

But he, like Hann, said the poll numbers may not reflect how people will vote when they are in the privacy of the voting booth. "We also know people are going to be asked this question after the end of an 18-month campaign, in which millions of dollars are going to be poured in to influence their opinion and the outcome," he said.

The poll, conducted last week among 806 Minnesotans, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

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