MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota voters voted on two major changes to their state constitution Tuesday, proposals to prohibit gay marriage and require photo identification for voting that sparked campaigns far more heated than usual for constitutional amendments.
The marriage amendment mobilized thousands of volunteers and attracted more than $16 million in campaign contributions. It drew more passion than the state’s presidential or Senate contests, and voters themselves were not short of opinions on the decision.
Minnesota already has a law against gay marriage, but the amendment would harden that by putting it into the constitution.
Kevin Gensch, a human resources manager, is gay but said his vote against the gay marriage ban.
“I don’t think the constitution should be amended for any reason for a social issue,” said Gensch, 34, after voting in St. Louis Park, an inner-ring Minneapolis suburb. “This is marrying church and state by putting this kind of amendment on the constitution. It doesn’t belong there.”
In Minneapolis, first-time voter Assan Shire voted for the gay marriage ban.
“I don’t want gay marriage. I think it is wrong,” said Shire, voting at a community center in the city’s diverse Phillips neighborhood.
According to exit poll data, younger voters appeared to be making a difference on the outcome of the marriage amendment. A strong majority of voters under 30 opposed it, while other age groups were more closely divided. Support for the gay marriage ban broke down by gender, too: a majority of women opposed the ban, while a majority of men supported it.
Besides Minnesota, gay marriage is on the ballot in three other states this year — Maine, Maryland and Washington. A win in any of the four would be an important advance for gay rights activists. Although polls show growing public acceptance of same-sex marriage, that hasn’t been confirmed in elections, where gay marriage supporters have never won in 32 tries around the country.
The decision is different in the other three states, where the vote is whether or not gay marriage should be legal. Strategy for all four campaigns, including Minnesota’s, was directed by Frank Schubert, a California-based consultant who’s become the nation’s top political operative trying to stop the spread of gay marriage.
Opponents of the amendment tried to persuade moderate and swing voters, aiming their TV ads at married couples and straight men in particular. That drew backlash from some gay activists, dismayed that none of the ads actually featured speaking parts for gay people who would be most affected by the amendment. The campaign also reached out more widely to various demographic groups, using narrowly targeted phone banks to reach senior citizens, younger voters and various ethnic and minority groups. The campaign for the amendment targeted much of its get-out-the-vote efforts on churchgoers.
Amendment supporters said it was necessary to keep legislators or judges from someday forcing gay marriage on the public. Opponents called it discrimination. Both the marriage amendment and the photo ID measure were put on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and reflected longtime conservative goals.
Democratic politicians argued that photo ID is meant to make voting tougher for certain groups that tend to favor Democrats: elderly people, the poor, college students and members of minority groups. Local government officials have also said the ID requirement would be a costly mandate.
Photo ID opponents complained at one point that they weren’t getting enough support from liberal groups because they were focused on the gay marriage amendment.
A quirk in Minnesota law means a ballot where the voter skips one or both of the amendments is counted as a “no” vote against the amendment that was skipped. That makes the bar higher for passage. But high interest in Minnesota’s two proposed amendments suggested few voters would skip the questions.
Some were voting against the gay marriage ban but in favor of the photo ID requirement. Terri Montbriand, a medical secretary voting in Bloomington, said she voted against the ban because she knows gay people and thinks anyone who wants to make a commitment to another person should be respected. She was more torn on the photo ID measure but ultimately backed it.
“I guess I didn’t think it was difficult to have to show an ID, in my mind,” Montbriand said.