In a new ad Minnesota for Marriage, the main group supporting a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, argues that Minnesotans should vote for the amendment to prevent people from being punished for their views on same-sex marriage.
Just take a look at what has happened in other states where same-sex marriage is legal, the ad states.
“When same-sex marriage has been imposed elsewhere, it has not been live and let live. People who believe marriage is one man and one woman have faced consequences.”
There’s truth to the examples in the ad, but overall, the TV spot is misleading.
“Small businesses fined.”
Minnesota for Marriage is referring to the Wildflower Inn in Vermont, where gay marriage was legalized in 2009. Lesbian couple Katherine Baker and Ming-Lien Linsley wanted to get married there, but were told the inn would not host same-sex ceremonies.
Baker and Linsley sued, claiming the inn violated the state’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prevents hotels from discriminating against patrons based on their sexual orientation. Ultimately, the inn had to pay the Vermont Human Rights Commission $10,000 and put $20,000 in a charitable trust.
University of Vermont law professor Greg Johnson specializes in sexual orientation and law, and said that the suit could have been brought regardless of whether or not same-sex marriage is legal. Johnson also said there have been no similar cases in Vermont since same-sex marriage was legalized.
“It’s not as if small businesses up and down the state are being fined,” Johnson said.
The ad refers to a Toronto-based sports broadcaster Damian Goddard who was fired a day after he tweeted about a hockey-player’s support of same-sex marriage.
According to ESPN, Goddard wrote that he “completely and whole-heartedly” backed another hockey agent’s “support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage.”
Goddard’s employer said that it already planned to let him go, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.
“Charities closed down”
This claim involves the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which is still open.
The group decided to shut down its public adoption program after Washington D.C. made same-sex marriage legal because it felt it could not comply with the new law, which requires religious groups that serve the general public to recognize same-sex marriages, without compromising its religious beliefs, according to the Archdiocese.
The D.C. Catholic Charities continues a private adoption program using its own money.
In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, a married gay couple is suing the Diocese of Worcester for dropping a real estate deal.
The couple said the Diocese backed out because it was worried gay marriages would be held on the property. The church says the deal fell through because of concerns about the couple’s finances.
But as in Vermont, the Massachusetts couple could sue regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal there because they are claiming Diocese violated a general Massachusetts law that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation, said real Massachusetts estate lawyer Richard Vetstein.
“Same-sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day.”
Earlier this year, PoliGraph said a similar claim is misleading.
Some Massachusetts schools are teaching kids about same-sex marriage in their diversity curriculum, which is part of a statewide curriculum framework created in 1993. But the state doesn’t mandate certain lessons or books be taught, and there is no statewide requirement that schools teach about same-sex marriage.
Rather, curriculum decisions are made by individual schools, and some have incorporated same-sex marriage into their diversity lessons, including the Lexington School district, which was involved in a 2006 lawsuit brought by several parents. A federal court ultimately rejected the case.
The examples in Minnesota for Marriage’s ad have some truth to them, but some are misleading. And over all, the ad misleads voters on several fronts.
First, same-sex marriage is illegal in Minnesota. If the amendment is defeated, same-sex marriage will still be illegal.
That said, amendment supporters are quick to point out that some legislators would like to make it legal and there’s a case pending in state courts that seeks to overturn the existing law. Supporters say that the amendment is necessary to keep legalization from happening and to prevent a rash of discrimination cases.
As for the rest of the ad, the examples involving lawsuits and fines could have been brought regardless of the state’s same-sex marriage laws. In fact, Minnesota’s anti-discrimination laws already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In general, most of these examples don’t have anything to do with whether same-sex marriage is legal or not. For instance, the Lexington School District in Massachusetts talks about same-sex marriage in school because it is part of its long-standing diversity curriculum, not because the state’s same-sex marriage law requires it or because the state requires it.
“Not Live and Let Live,” Oct. 17, 2012
The Associated Press, Vermont’s Wildflower Inn Settles Gay Marriage Lawsuit With Lesbian Couple, By Dave Gram, Aug. 23, 2012
ESPN, TV host fired over Sean Avery debate, May 13, 2011
The Toronto Globe and Mail, Hockey as secular as the nation that worships the sport, May 11, 2011
Catholic News Agency, Same-sex ‘marriage’ law forces D.C. Catholic Charities to close adoption program, Feb. 17, 2010
CBS Boston, Gay Couple Sues Worcester Diocese For Refusing To Sell Mansion To Them, Sept. 10, 2012
2011 Minnesota Statutes, 363A.03 Definitions, accessed Sept. 25, 2012
2011 Minnesota Statutes, 363A.11 Public Accommodations, accessed Sept. 25, 2012 https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=363a.11
MPR News, PoliGraph: Marriage amendment video claim misleading, by Catharine Richert, July 20, 2012
Minnesota for Marriage, Substantiation Letter for “Not Live and Let Live.”
Minnesota for Marriage, Professor Laycock Letter to Gov. Baldacci
Minnesotans United for All Families, Telling the Truth: Not Live and Let Live, Oct. 18, 2012
Email exchange via Sasha Aslanian with Minnesota for Marriage’s Chuck Darrell, Oct. 18, 2012
Phone interview, University of Vermont law professor Greg Johnson, Oct. 18, 2012
Phone interview, Richard Vetstein, Vetstein Law Group, Oct. 18, 2012
Phone interview, Erik Salmi, spokesman, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Oct. 19, 2012