By PATRICK CONDON
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A handful of Minnesota Republicans vowed Thursday to help defeat next year’s ballot measure that will ask voters to ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
“I’m a Republican because I believe in individual liberty and freedom,” said state Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, one of only four majority Republicans in the Minnesota House who in May voted against putting the question on next year’s ballot. “I believe this is an attack on that.”
Kriesel was joined at the press conference by Wheelock Whitney, a party eminence who unsuccessfully ran for governor for the GOP in 1982, and a handful of other Republicans, though Kriesel was the only current Republican elected official. Members of the group said they tried to build support among Republicans to help defeat the ballot measure and get out a message that being Republican doesn’t necessarily mean opposing gay marriage.
Whitney, who has a gay son and a gay grandson, said he’d already donated $10,000 to defeating the amendment.
“I’m looking forward to asking my friends and other Republicans to do the same,” he said.
His grandson, Alex Whitney, is a former legislative candidate and also spoke Thursday.
The ballot measure on the November 2012 general election will ask voters whether the Minnesota Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman. That’s already how marriage is defined in state law, but supporters of the ban argue that it’s necessary to protect against judicial rulings and future legislative votes.
Tony Sutton, the state GOP chairman, said individual Republicans can disagree with the party overall on specific issues, but noted that the party platform is in favor of banning gay marriage.
“The party’s position on this is clear,” Sutton said.
Still, Sutton indicated that the issue might not have the same juice at the polls as it did in 2004, when constitutional gay marriage bans were on the ballot in several states and were perceived to drive up Republican turnout. Sutton said he expected most people who participate in next year’s election will be motivated mainly by economic concerns.