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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Coverage of the Bachmann Amendment in Willmar

Democrat Al Juhnke gets praised by the a speakers at the Willmar Bachmann amendment rally.

Correction: A commenter who was at the rally said only one speaker at the Willmar rally, MN for Marriage Communications Director, Chuck Darrell, mentioned Juhnke.

You can comment on this topic at the West Central Tribune here.

West Central Tribune reporter, David Little interviews a
Hamline Law Professor who opposes the Bachmann amendment.

Law professor says amendment prevents people from changing law in the future
David Little West Central Tribune
Published Monday, February 13, 2006

A constitutional law professor says the United States Constitution and the Minnesota Constitution are intended to protect people's rights, rather than restrict them.

"One of the things people have to remember about amendments is they're very difficult to change. They're really anti-democratic," says Marie A. Failinger, professor of constitutional law at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul.

"I think whenever someone proposes an amendment, they say this is a chance for the people to vote on something. But once you have an amendment ... it prevents the people from changing the law," she said.

"And that's why certainly, historically, in the United States Constitution, most of the amendments have been rights-protective amendments. They're trying to protect minorities against majorities who they're afraid might harm minority groups in a fit of passion," Failinger told the Tribune in a phone interview from her Hamline office.

Failinger said amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage are being proposed because people argue that judges will interpret state constitutions or the U.S. Constitution in a way that would protect the rights of same-sex couples to get married.

"Of course, there's no absolute guarantee that that won't happen. It's happened in Massachusetts and happened in Canada and some other places, to honor those protections," she said.

On the other hand, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in a case in 1971 that same-sex marriage is not permitted by state law or the state Constitution, and the Legislature has passed a law which states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Because state law and the state Supreme Court have said "no," Failinger believes an amendment is not needed, and she thinks the court is unlikely to overturn both the statute and the precedent.

"Our court was one of the first to say no — the Minnesota Constitution doesn't protect same-sex marriage — so the chances that the court would reverse itself, I think, are probably quite slim," said Failinger.

"I'm more sympathetic to the issue, but I think the main point is why not let the people make a decision on this through the regular (legislative) process, which is they vote for representatives and the representatives decide if they're going to change the law or not," she said.

The request by amendment proponents for a popular vote sounds democratic, says Failinger, but approval would restrict the rights of a future public that which might support same-sex marriage. She said removing an amendment is more difficult than approving it or having lawmakers change a statute or law.

"They're really taking away the rights of future generations to change their mind about this question, which is anti-democratic," says Failinger. " … In this particular case, it's taking away the chance for the people to vote for a change in their marriage law."

When I've used this argument about protecting unpopular minorities from hostile majorities, when debating Michele Bachmann on KKMS radio, she did not have a good response, and callers were uncomfortable doing this. I tend to think of this as a traditionally liberal argument, but I have seen conservative columnist, Craig Westover use this argument.

David Little also attended and reported on the Willmar Bachmann amendment rally.

Marriage amendment supporters say their issue is mainstream
David Little West Central Tribune
Published Monday, February 13, 2006

WILLMAR — Mainstream Minnesotans support a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, several speakers told a rally for traditional marriage Saturday afternoon in Willmar.

They avoided signs like this one, which was prominent during the 2004 Bachmann amendment rally at the state capitol.

They urged amendment supporters to write letters, call their legislators and become active in their churches to get the amendment on the ballot in this fall’s 2006 general election. Supporters believe voters should decide matters of constitutional importance.

An amendment is needed because marriage laws are being struck down in a growing number of states, they said, and Minnesota’s 1997 Defense of Marriage Act and a 1971 Minnesota Supreme Court decision, which said same-sex marriage is not permitted by state law or the state Constitution, could be struck down.

"This grassroots effort here is important to making sure that we can get this issue on the ballot for the citizens of Minnesota to decide," Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, and speaker of the Minnesota House, told 250 people attending the rally at Harvest Community Church.

Sviggum said the amendment passed the House in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, "and we can pass it again in 2006." However, the amendment has been bottled up in the Senate, which he said is preventing the measure from being placed on the ballot.

"The governor supports it, the House strongly supports it. Right now, only the Senate and maybe your senator right here in this town … " said Sviggum, referring to DFL Sen. Dean Johnson. "He may hold the key. That's tough to say it that directly, but it is that direct."

Sviggum predicted Minnesota would be the 20th state to pass an amendment if it's placed on the ballot.

"I've seen polls that are very significant in support of the amendment defining marriage as one man, one woman. It is mainstream, not the extreme," he said.

The House author of the amendment bill, Rep. Daniel Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, said he felt prayers of intercession made the difference in the bill's 77-56 bipartisan passage. Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, and Rep. Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport, were later thanked for their support.

Juhnke gets a positive mention. Will anti-gay DFLer Al Juhnke speak at the 2006 Bachmann amendment rally at the capitol?

Severson called defense of traditional marriage an important fundamental issue.

"For Minnesota, that building block for our society is between one man and one woman," he said. "You must make a difference on this issue. Talk to your pastor; have him be bold in the pulpit. If we can get it to the floor (of the Senate), we can get it through. But the only way we’re going to do that is if you will engage in this warfare."

Sixth District Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, who supports a similar federal amendment, said a super-majority is needed in the House, Senate and the states.

"We have justices and elected officials that understand a few basic things about the constitution … and that is the First Amendment is there to protect people of faith from the government, not the government from people of faith, and that this nation is under God whether some crazy California judge thinks so or not," he said to applause.

Actually Kennedy should read the federal constitution. The federal constitution mentions that the government derives its authority from "We the People" and not God. This was debated at the constitutional convention.

"And finally, that the fundamental question of whether or not marriage is a building block of our society for millennium … is a decision for we the people, not a few justices in Massachusetts or a few senators in Minnesota," he said.

Does Kennedy understand the separation of powers?

Dan Johnson, senior pastor of First Covenant Church of Willmar, said he wants to safeguard the human family.

"For me, it's not a political issue. It’s a pastoral issue. As a pastor, I have a pastoral concern for the marriages and the families that I deal with on a regular basis. The statistics are just staggering. There are just too many divorces. I see the hurt and the heartache that goes with divorce. I especially see the devastating effects on children," he said.

What is this amendment going to do to reduce the incidence of divorce?

Charles Darrell, communications director for Minnesota for Marriage — a group working for the passage of a marriage amendment, said supporters are mainstream, not extremists or homophobic. He said the African-American community supports the amendment.

"You are right smack dab in the middle of the road," said Darrell. "Don't let them challenge you about whether you are violating separation of church and state. Don't let them freak you out about that you're violating civil rights."

Has Darrell ever publicly condemned the mean spirited signs from the 2004 Bachmann amendment rally?