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Minnesotans Split on Gay Marriage Amendment

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MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesotans are split on whether to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman only, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Star Tribune.

With a year to go before the statewide vote on a constitutional amendment, the newspaper’s poll found 48 percent of respondents are in favor of the amendment while 43 percent oppose it. That falls within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The poll of 807 adults statewide was conducted Nov. 2-3 based on land line and cellphone interviews, and shows clear disagreement over the constitutional definition of marriage along partisan, generational, educational and geographic divides.

The constitutional gay marriage ban enjoys majority support from older voters, Republicans, voters without college educations and residents outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area; significant majorities of younger voters, Democrats, the college educated and Twin Cities residents were opposed. More men than women support the amendment, with 52 percent of men in favor while only 45 percent of women hold that view.

The marriage amendment was forwarded to next year’s statewide ballot by the state Legislature’s Republican majorities, at the request of socially conservative groups who see a threat to traditional family units in the prospect of legalized gay marriage. While state law already prohibits gay marriage, amendment supporters say locking the definition into the state Constitution would protect traditional marriage from judicial rulings and future legislative tinkering.

Gay-rights groups call the amendment unnecessary, divisive and harmful to the dignity of gay people and their families.

George Werl, a 62-year-old communications consultant from Minneapolis, told the Star Tribune that he doesn’t care what people do in their private lives, but that he still thinks marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples to protect the children of those unions.

“I believe that that is what this thing called marriage is,” Werl said. “How do we protect society with two same-sex people?”

But Christina Edstrom, a 28-year-old St. Louis Park resident, saw a different societal purpose for marriage.

“I believe that everyone deserves to be treated equally and everyone deserves to marry who they love,” said Edstrom, who works in the mental health field. She added: “I like to think of Minnesota as being more open-minded.”

Amendment supporter Chuck Darrell, spokesman for Minnesota for Marriage, called the poll good news because, he said, polling in other states has often understated the amount of support for traditional definitions of marriage.

“People tend to give the politically correct answer,” he said.

But Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, said he saw hopeful signs for the coalition he’s leading in opposition to the amendment. “Everybody is under 50 percent,” he said. “We are at the beginning of a very long conversation about this.”

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