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Gazelka wants marriage definition to be decided at the polls in ‘12

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, wants Minnesotans to vote next year on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage. 

He was one of three Republican senators who announced Tuesday in St. Paul they would introduce such an amendment in hopes of letting voters weigh in on the issue. Gazelka, a first-term senator who previously served one term in the House, said Minnesotans have a choice of potentially allowing a judge decide on the constitutionality of Minnesota’s current marriage statute (which prohibits same sex marriages), letting the Legislature decide or letting the “good-natured, common sense people of Minnesota” decide.

“We want Minnesota to have a conversation on this,” he said in a phone interview.

Gazelka, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, and Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, had each proposed constitutional amendments on this issue but will now combine their efforts. Gazelka said at a minimum he would be a co-author of the bill for an amendment defining marriage in the state Constitution.

If the House and Senate pass the constitutional amendment it would not require the signature of Gov. Mark Dayton before being placed on the 2012 ballot. It would, however, require that a majority of all people who vote in the general election vote yes. In effect, a person who skips the question, would be regarded as a no vote.

Gazelka said Iowa had a law similar to Minnesota’s that defined marriage as between a man and a woman but it was overturned in the courts. At least 30 states have allowed voters to weigh in on this issue, Gazelka said. He said he did not think the inclusion of such constitutional amendments necessarily rallied conservative voters to the polls, noting how California supported a traditional definition of marriage amendment the same year it cast its electoral votes for then-Sen. Barack Obama.

The rural Brainerd lawmaker said he was fairly optimistic the amendment would be adopted by the Legislature.

The focus of Republican lawmakesr, Gazelka said, continues to be on the state’s budget and a great deal of work on that has already been done in committees. He said the Republican caucus made a decision to make the budget a priority and act on issues such as this constitutional amendment during a lull period.

 Gazelka said he and the other lawmakers want gays and lesbians to live as they chose but they don’t want them to redefine the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.