PoliGraph: Marriage amendment ad misleads

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.

The Evidence

“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.

“Individuals fired”

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.

“Churches sued.”

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 Verdict

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

Complaint in Fairbanks v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Worcester, Mass.


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

  • RalfW

    Truth, love, commitment and family are on the No side. I hope Minnesotans will clearly and firmly let the people who made, and paid for, this ad know that their misleading is unacceptable.

    A decisive No vote on Nov. 6th would go a long way to saying “Not in Minnesota. We do politics on the up and up here.”

  • DanF

    What ever happened to the First Amendment? Why should Catholic Charities be forced to close its doors on adoption, because one of its central religious tenets is in disagreement with the government? That is exactly why we have constitutional protection!

    It is sad, and appalling that private funds are needed for Catholic Charities to participate — like any other religious group — in the public square and participate in the public good. So much for “tolerance”!

  • Jamie

    They were not FORCED to close its doors, DanF, they CHOSE to do so.

  • DanF

    Jamie –

    Do you consider the following a choice? A. Violate your deeply held religious convictions; B. Stop your adoption services.

    This is not a “choice”, this is a violation of First Amendment rights.

  • David

    The First Amendment protects speech, not action. And it doesn’t protect speech from private lawsuit – it protects us from government intrusion.

    Catholic Charities can hold whatever beliefs it wants to just like any person. But they can’t discriminate in Massachusetts. That’s the law and it applies to everyone regardless of their speech.

    Do we really want “charitable” organizations to be able to discriminate in this manner in who they provide service to?

    It amazes me how everyone conflates the “First Amendment” with “my right to do and say whatever I want”. It just doesn’t work that way.

  • Louis

    So I’m sure DanF will be voting NO. Thats the only vote that ensures religious freedom. That is how we keep government from imposing catholic religious views on the rest of us.

  • DanF

    David, I’m sorry but you couldn’t be more incorrect:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Free exercise includes speech, and action. David, our nation was largely founded in response to relgious persecution in Europe. These principles are no less important today — Catholics DO have a right to exercise their religion in the public square, by right of our Constitution — just like Muslims, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.

    Louis – with respect your comment makes no sense. Catholics are not imposing their views on anyone, they are exercising their religion which they have a right to do.

  • Kevin H

    So if my church were to decide that it wished to marry homosexual couples, wouldn’t this amendment effectively be limiting the free exercise of my religion? It is fine if your church doesn’t want to recognize the marriage of homosexuals. I am completely okay with that. What I am not okay with is our government effectively telling people that they have less rights because of their sexual orientation. Or telling some churches that recognize same-sex marriages that those marriages are not valid in their eyes.

    I don’t see how this is different in terms of religious discrimination than saying it won’t recognize Hindu, Islamic, Mormon of any other religion’s marriages. If you want to claim that marriage is a religious institution, and its definition should be limited by marriage, then allow churches to marry whomever they please and the state can not infringe of their “religious liberty” and recognize all of them.

    You can’t be for religious freedom and for this amendment, unless of course you only want religious freedom for yourself.

  • wayne

    Your Freedom of Religion stops at my courthouse door, just like my right to same sex marriage stops at your church door. Sorry, you cannot bar both doors in the name of your God!

  • kathleen

    This is the most intellectually dishonest “fact-checking” I’ve ever seen. Shame on you, Minnesota Public Radio — it’s very clear that you are letting your obvious bias trump your commitment to honest journalism.

  • Jesse

    How is it in any way biased, ‘kathleen’? It literally says the facts as they are. Just because their interpretations (which are based on fact, as I said, rather than superstition or ideology) are different than yours doesn’t make it dishonest.

  • DI

    It seems as if the most basic issue was missed. The ad focuses on isolated incidents in areas where same-sex marriages are legal. But same-sex marriages are already illegal in Minnesota and there’s nothing on the ballot that would legalize them.

  • mpls52

    Truth, love, commitment, family and freedom are on the Vote NO side. If this amendment passes, it will limit freedoms and protections that will harm many loving, nurturing families. In my church we have many same-sex couples raising children with love, nurture, and success.

    This past Wednesday in Rochester, over 200 Doctors, healthcare professionals and scientists from across Minnesota met to urge Minnesotans to Vote No on the proposed constitutional amendment. “The most important thing is that children have dedicated and loving parents,” said Dr. Jim Martenson. “As a physician, and health professionals, we are opposed to any attempt to permanently prevent families from having the access to the stability that comes from having committed and married parents.”

    Thank you WCCO and MPR News (PoliGraph) for stating the recent ad by ‘Minnesota for Marriage’ is “misleading” and “deceptive.” Thank you MPR for citing sources for the (true) facts.

    We have the right to attend the church/faith community we choose. We should not legislate one religion’s view into the constitution.

  • Douglas Langer

    why are we mudding up our sacred constitution. Is it because our law makers are not doing thier job? Maybe the recourse we should all be concerned with is are we getting our monies worth from our elected officals.

    laws should be passed not constitutional amendments. if we continue to muddy up our constitution it makes our laws evem more muddied and who will be able to truely discern what our laws and constitution states.

  • Shari

    Now that we know the REAL reason the pretend amendments are on the ballot; that is reason enough to vote against both of them.

    In case you missed it, Michael Broadkorb tells that it was a bald-face effort to get out the Republican vote by putting an emotionally charged issue before the voters, hoping to bring out enough conservatives to maintain their (toxic) majority in the MN legislature. Lest you think it is MB’s form of sour grapes for losing his job after the affair with Majority leader Amy Koch; consider whether there is ANY other reasonable explanation for the timing of this amendment. The hypocrisy of the situation is mind-blowing – this from the self-proclaimed party of alleged family values.

    If you don’t like being manipulated, you will VOTE NO on both amendments.

  • Jim

    Wayne has it right. Don’t impose your spiritual beliefs with policies of the State. It is discrimination plain and simple.

  • Gary

    The biggest reason to vote no is that everything the church leaders are teaching us what the Bible says about Homosexuality is a lie.

    Read: “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe” by John Boswell and “Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality” by John Boswell

    You will see that the Bible did not condemn gays until the church translated it from the original Hebrew and Greek. There is documented proof the early church performed and sanctioned same sex marriages.

    Ministers are afraid to tell the truth. For when they do my loving Brothers and Sisters who claim to love Jesus turn into vicious hateful creatures. They have those that speak the truth thrown out of the church and do everything they can to make sure these Ministers never preach in any other churches again.

    For those that say Homosexuality is against nature should read: “Biological Exuberance” by Bruce Bagemihl, PHD.

    Of course all the documented facts will always be ignored by hate mongers. Maybe they should start by reading what the Bible has to say about Hate & Fear Mongers.

  • BobD

    “Louis – with respect your comment makes no sense. Catholics are not imposing their views on anyone, they are exercising their religion which they have a right to do.”

    DanF, tell that to the American Indian tribes of the late 1800’s It was appalling what was done to them to impose our culture upon them. In most cases, all done in the name of religion via cristian missionaries.

    I see this amendment as doing the same sort of thing. Imposing ones views on another. And making it legal to do so. History repeating itself?