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Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was among the volunteers that encouraged voters to register a “No” vote on the marriage amendment.

Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Editorial: Voters say no to amendments, yes to fairness

  • Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Star Tribune
  • November 7, 2012 - 5:50 PM

(Note to readers: This editorial has been updated from an earlier version posted today.)

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Minnesotans who value equality in marriage and voting rights have every reason to be proud.

Voters made history on Tuesday by defeating an ill-advised proposal to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, making the state the nation's first to reject such a ban.

Citizens here joined voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington who also advanced marriage equity on Election Day. Voters in Maine approved a referendum that reversed a previously approved statutory ban.

Gay-rights advocates believe the historic results in the four states will help pave the way for full acceptance of same-sex marriage in the years ahead.

The marriage question was the most expensive and divisive ballot question in Minnesota history, with the two sides spending a total of more than $15 million.

The historic vote doesn't legalize gay marriage: Minnesota's Defense of Marriage Act law remains in effect. However, gay-rights advocates believe that the amendment's defeat builds a foundation for repeal of the law.

Minnesotans also wisely rejected a proposal to require a government-issued photo ID to vote. The poorly designed measure would have made voting more difficult for several segments of the population and likely would have led to lawsuits from disenfranchised voters.

Photo ID supporters also failed to demonstrate that voter fraud was a significant problem in Minnesota. There was no proof of voters intentionally posing as someone else or violating eligibility rules. Advocates did point out some cases of voting by felons on probation, but those attempts were largely the result of uncertainty about eligibility rules.

As one of the best anti-photo-ID ads pointed out, voting issues should go back to the Legislature for more thoughtful, bipartisan review. The governor and lawmakers should consider appointing a commission to make recommendations for needed changes and updates in voting laws. And any future consideration of voting rules should include discussion about new technologies, such as electronic poll books, that could improve the system.

Both "vote no" camps deserve praise for conducting civil, well-reasoned campaigns that appealed to Minnesotan's basic sense of fairness. They both tapped into an important lawmaking principle -- that changes in the state Constitution should not be made lightly and that many issues are better addressed by elected representatives.

The amendment discussions also demonstrated the long-held position of this page that campaigns matter. When lawmakers approved the amendments, the expectation was that the changes to the Constitution would be passed. But as voters learned more about each proposal, support diminished.

On Tuesday, Minnesota voters gave their final verdict: Voting barriers and marriage discrimination have no place in the state's Constitution.

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