Backers sue over marriage amendment title

Supporters of the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota are crying foul over Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s proposal to rename the measure on the ballot.


Minnesotans for Marriage and a handful of Republican legislators said they want the Supreme Court to overturn the change. They spoke at the State Office Building this morning, and said they hope the court will take up their lawsuit in a matter of weeks, and decide the matter before November ballots are printed.

The measure was titled “Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman” when the Legislature passed the ballot question last year. Ritchie wants to title it “Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples.”

Lawmakers voiced several objections. State Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said that Ritchie had no authority to act on a measure passed by the legislature, even though Gov. Mark Dayton had vetoed the underlying legislation.

“We swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and there has been a constitutionally designated question on the ballot,” Ortman said. “The interference of the secretary of state and the attorney general are out of bounds.”

But others said it wasn’t just a matter of principle.

“Those words are definitely considered negative and misleading, and I believe they’re created to sway the voters,” said state Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove. (That’s him at the podium above.)

The Secretary of State’s office declined to elaborate on the change, citing the pending litigation. Ritchie said two weeks ago, when he announced the change, that Dayton’s veto nullified the original title of the measure and that state law required him, not the legislature, to title constitutional amendment questions. A gubernatorial veto can’t block a ballot question, but its now unclear what effect it might ultimately have on the legislation that enables it.

The title was a matter of some controversy when the measure passed in the Senate in 2011. The title that passed was actually proposed by Minneapolis DFLer Scott Dibble, in a floor amendment. He’s one of the few openly gay legislators at the Capitol. Republicans acceded to his suggestion and adopted Dibble’s title.

Limmer said the original title of the ballot question was “Recognition of marriage” when it was first proposed.

Photo: Tim Nelson

UPDATE: Here’s the relevant paperwork, filed with the Supreme Court.

Marriage Amendment Lawsuit

  • wayne

    The Secretary of State did his statutory duty. Sorry,Bigots,neither the legislature nor the objectors are authorized to establish the title.

  • ChanhassenMom

    The message should be jobs, jobs, jobs. I filled my van up today at Kwik Trip and gas was around $3.70. Jobs and the economy. Surprised to see Senator Ortman at a press conference on the marriage amendment.

    What’s that old phrase about glass houses?

    My kids are worried about jobs, not social issues.