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Reps: Voters should decide gay marriage

Published 11:11am Monday, May 23, 2011 Updated 11:58am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gay marriage is going to the voters.

The Minnesota House of Representatives approved on Saturday a measure that puts a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage on the 2012 ballot. Among representatives voting in favor of the referendum were Bud Nornes (Fergus Falls), Torrey Westrom (Elbow Lake) and Mark Murdock (Ottertail). Paul Marquart, whose district includes all of Wilkin County, voted against the measure.

The House vote was the last hurdle the referendum needed to clear, as the state Senate has already approved the measure.

“I’ve supported it in the past. It’s nothing new,” said Nornes. “I believe like many others that the question needs to be put on the ballot so it can be decided by Minnesotans.”

Westrom pointed out that he and Nornes also voted in 1998 in favor of the state statute that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

“I have always been in support of traditional marriage and to have it on the ballot for citizens to vote on it,” Westrom said. “The Legislature is the gatekeeper for the citizens to have their voice.”

Mark Murdock pointed out that 31 other states have had similar votes for a constitutional amendment defining marriage.

“We don’t think judges and legislators have a right to decide,” Murdock said. “It should be in the hands of voters.”

Nornes added that putting the measure in the state constitution makes it immune from judges or lawmakers who may seek to overturn the provision currently in state law that outlaws gay marriage.

“Putting in the constitution kind of makes it a permanent thing,” he stated.

As to whether or not marriage is a right, said Nornes, “That’s already been decided by state law.”

He added that marriage between a man and a woman “is just the way that nature has been created.”

The referendum debate stretched for almost six hours on the House floor. Nornes said it was discussed so late because the House wanted to get all of its important bills passed and sent to Governor Mark Dayton before debate began.

“I don’t think that it jeopardized anything else we’re trying to do,” he said.

Nornes, who declined to comment on how he’ll vote on the issue in the general election, said that the question was sure to be hotly contested in the state.

“I think it’s going to be a close vote,” he said. “What bothers me is that there is so much hate that has been generated through this, and I hope it can be kept to a minimum.”

Nornes has received “hundreds” of e-mails before and since the House vote, most of which he said were part of an organized campaign by opposition groups. Many are from out of state, and most are from out of his district. He apologized to any of his constituents whose e-mail he may have missed in the deluge.

Nornes added that he has friends on both sides of the debate, and he would no doubt discuss it with them in the leadup to the 2012 election.

“Obviously I voted for the amendment, so that might indicate where I’d be leaning,” he said.

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