In testimony before Minnesota Senate and House committees last week, religious leaders and representatives from religious right organizations cited single-parent families and a skyrocketing divorce rate as reasons to protect marriage from being redefined to include same-sex couples by “activist judges” and “handfuls of legislators.” And GOP members rebuffed efforts by DFLers to include a ban on divorces in a proposed ban on gay marriage. However, a number of the legislators who say they want to protect marriage appear to have been divorced.
The Minnesota Family Council, a main proponent of the anti-gay marriage amendment, calls the effort to pass the amendment “protecting marriage” and organized testimony at the Minnesota Capitol in favor of bringing the issue to the ballot in 2012. The testifiers, who were all affiliated with religious denominations or groups, often said that divorce greatly weakened marriage and that same-sex marriage would spell its death knell.
Bishop John Quinn of the Diocese of Winona lamented the “high rates of fatherlessness” in American society and the “unfair burden of parenting alone” as reasons to protect marriage from gay and lesbian couples.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the National Organization for Marriage said, “Previous generations of social experimenters have caused unimaginable misery for millions of people. Particular people advocated the policies that led to today’s 50 percent divorce rate and 40 percent out-of-wedlock childbearing rate. None of these people has ever been held accountable,” she said.
On the amendment to bar gay marriage, she said, “Something this significant should not be rammed down the throats of an unwilling citizenry by judges. Let the people vote.”
But several legislators who want voters to ban gay marriage have had unsuccessful marriages.
According to a name, date of birth, and city search in publicly available Minnesota court records, Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, was divorced in 2000. She’s a sponsor of the Senate version of the bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage and voted to pass the bill in the Senate last week.
Alexandria Republican Rep. Mary Franson’s divorce earlier this year was reported on a liberal website, and records with the Minnesota court system match the name listed as her husband’s on her legislator biography page. She’s a sponsor of the House version of the bill.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, was divorced in 1994. In his first bid for office, the DFL attacked him when he tried to get his child support order reduced. He’s a sponsor of the House version of the bill.
Court records matched the name, date of birth and city of Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan, for a divorce in 2005. In a roll call vote in the House Civil Law Commitee, Wardlow voted in favor of the amendment.
Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, is legally separated from his wife, which was revealed last November when he was stopped by the police in a Planned Parenthood parking lot with a gun in his vehicle looking for a woman he found on the Internet. He was among the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee that passed the amendment by a voice vote.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, is listed as divorced on her legislator biography page. Her divorce occurred in 2010, years after she voted to force a marriage amendment bill out of committee and onto the floor in 2006 and with then state Sen. Michele Bachmann in 2004. Rosen also was among the Republicans in the Senate who voted for the amendment last week.
Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, attempted to change the amendment so that if Minnesotans were to protect marriage from same-sex couples, they were also protecting marriage from divorce. She offered an amendment to the GOP measure that would define marriage as “one union” of one man and one woman valid in Minnesota, and when the GOP turned that down she offered an amendment that defined marriage as one man and one woman “for life.” That failed as well.
“If we are going to define marriage in the constitution, and the concern is that same-sex couples would create an unstable environment for children and would be wrong, then we should be able to say that marriage should be once in your life. Once married, that’s the only chance you get in Minnesota,” she said. “I think what that vote proved is that it isn’t an issue of how sacred marriage is. It’s an issue of discrimination.”
The Minnesota Family Council, despite organizing testimony to protect marriage, lined up Newt Gingrich to headline its fundraiser on Tuesday. Gingrich has been married three times; the first two marriages ended after he committed adultery with women who would become his second and third wives.