by District 32B State Sen. Sean Nienow
Last Monday’s historic vote legally sanctioning same-sex marriage comes on the heels of the unsuccessful vote last fall to prevent Minnesota Courts from redefining marriage as anything other than the union of one man and one woman. Despite telling Minnesotans that nothing would change if they voted “No” on that question last fall, changing the definition of marriage became a priority for the new DFL majorities in both the House and Senate. When the new law takes effect this summer, they will have succeeded in redefining marriage. I did not vote for the proposal.
Marriage predates governmental definitions and regulation. Government did not create marriage. Marriage laws were crafted to acknowledge a socially beneficial structure, an institution (marriage) which existed and benefitted society through childbirth and a strong social structure for the rearing of those children — a stable environment with both a mother and father, which is well known to be the most beneficial environment for a child. Gay marriage advocates want to use the force of the state to change a pre-existing institution. If the state can change the definition of an institution it did not create then it can force people to do so as well. There is a distinct potential the new law could adversely affect traditional families and certainly will come into conflict with certain individuals expression under First Amendment rights to adhere to religious beliefs.
Minnesota will have to sort out in the courts paternity and parental laws as well as the legal use of words like mother, father, husband and wife which will now be prohibited by law in various instances. Those terms will now be required by this law to change into something “gender neutral.” I see fundamental societal challenges ahead as Minnesota grapples with a new law that seems to imply that to be a child’s mother has nothing to do with being female, and to be a child’s father has nothing to do with being male. This is our new law.
As acknowledged in the bill language attempting to protect some religious institutions, this law has an inherent conflict with some religious liberties. I addressed some of those concerns during Senate debate, and I highlighted the fact (as acknowledged in a letter by renowned law professors) that there are some religious liberties protections for institutions and corporations in this new law but individual protection does not exist in the language. That is highly problematic, and I hope that particular flaw in the law will be addressed in the very near future.