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Expert: MN’s Gay Marriage Vote Will Get National Attention

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By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter was inside the Capitol when the Senate gave the green light to the amendment, which he says proposes that “only a union of one man and woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

Carpenter, who specializes in sexual orientation law, says that not only is this proposed vote unprecedented in Minnesota history, it will undoubtedly receive national attention.

“For better or worse, we will now be known as the state in November 2012, that is going to be voting on this issue,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter says Minnesota is one of the last states to address gay marriage, and he believes private funds from Minnesota and outside the state will be funneled into a massive media campaign.

“The media will be making a lot of money in next 18 months from ads on both sides,” said Carpenter. “A rough estimate on what might be spent on either side is 8 million dollars, maybe more,” said Carpenter.

U of M political science professor Kathryn Pearson says that’s because much more is at stake, especially in Republican-controlled chambers, where this strategy was widely anticipated.

“In part it’s a way to forward their agenda, in part it’s a way to reward the base critical to the election in 2010, and in part a mobilization strategy for the 2012 elections.” said Pearson

Pearson says the timing could open Republicans up to criticism.

“To charges they are not prioritizing right issues right now with budget timeline so close,” she said.

Pearson also warns turnout is key, because the amendment requires “yes” votes from a majority of all voters, which means leaving the question blank or unanswered, is essentially the same as a “no” vote, according to Pearson.

“Which means if someone does not vote on an amendment it counts as a no vote, and in a high turnout presidential election year, that could be a significant number of people,” adds Carpenter.

“It’s an issue on which public opinion is rapidly changing, and it’s a real unknown, with mobilizations on both sides of issue,” said Pearson.

Carpenter notes that every time gay marriage has been put on the ballot in other states, voters have banned it.

So far, 30 US states have banned gay marriage in their constitution, and remaining states like Minnesota do not define it in their constitution, but may define it in state statute, according to Carpenter.

Currently, five states have passed same sex marriage laws: Vermont, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.

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