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Minnesota Secretary of State proposes title for anti-marriage equality amendment

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Any time marriage equality is up for a popular vote, ballot language is key: it influences the way voters think about the measure at hand and can either help or hinder advocates’ attempts to fully explain their positions.  In mid-June, the Maine Secretary of State released proposed ballot language that didn’t include an affirmation of religious exemptions, and marriage equality advocates in the state are planning to appeal his proposal.  Similarly, both pro- and anti-marriage forces argued their sides in Washington state before a judge who released the final language for that measure in mid-March.

Yesterday, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie announced his choice for a title for the state’s proposed constitutional ban on marriage equality, and it is very simple: “Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples.”  Ritchie’s proposal went to Attorney General Lori Swanson on June 15, and there will most likely be an appeal process before the final language is decided upon.

Although it may not stand, Ritchie’s proposed language is clear and straightforward, and serves as a reminder to those of us who support marriage equality that our choice of language undoubtedly frames our success at least to some extent.  It’s the reason we use the term ‘marriage equality’ on this site instead of ‘gay marriage’: the issue at hand isn’t a right to a new kind of marriage, but rather about equal access to the same kind of marriage.

In truth, Ritchie’s title is in some ways a technical misnomer: the status of marriage in Minnesota is already limited to opposite sex couples.  But in emphasizing the fact that the amendment would maintain that limitation and keep marriage from loving same-sex couples, his proposed title shows anti-marriage efforts for what they really are.  With any luck, the amendment’s final language will do something similar.


  • 1. Don  |  June 29, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I think Oppose is supposed to be Opposite in the proposed language?

  • 2. fiona64  |  June 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I'm hoping that's what they meant. Otherwise, it's rather Orwellian.

  • 3. Lymis  |  June 29, 2012 at 8:56 am

    And, sadly, very much in line with a lot of today's social conservative policies.

  • 4. Ann_S  |  June 29, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Insert joke here about married couples having no sex.

  • 5. MightyAcorn  |  June 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I oppose the sex couple term "insert."

  • 6. Glen  |  June 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    They do need to change the word 'sex' to 'gender'.

    The anti-gay opposition loves to use the word 'sex' because of its dual meaning (gender and intercourse), and they want people's minds to go to intercourse and be turned off by it.

    Gender is the meaning of 'sex' they are going for, so why not just USE that term instead. "Limiting the Status of Marriage to Couples of the Opposite Gender"

  • 7. Sagesse  |  June 29, 2012 at 8:39 am


  • 8. bayareajohn  |  June 29, 2012 at 10:57 am

    “Limiting the Status of Marriage to Oppose Sex Couples.”
    Clearly this means that the purpose of "limiting the status of marriage" is to oppose "sex couples". Got it. Crystalline. Let's vote!

  • 9. bayareajohn  |  June 29, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Seriously though, this article repeats a phrase I have trouble with in all it's variants…
    "loving same-sex couples"
    As though the adjective "loving" changes the value of the "same sex couples". Is the intent to say that if the same sex couple isn't "loving" enough, they don't deserve the discussed rights and benefits? While I expect this word is a knee-jerk addition in an ongoing effort to humanize and emotionalize the phrase, it really is out of place in the discussion, and appears to offer a wedge point that isn't really there. No one feels compelled to refer to opposite-sex couples who can marry as "Loving". Would anyone favor a marriage law that applied specifically to "Loving" couples and then tried to legislatively define that term in order to sort out who qualifies?

  • 10. Steve  |  June 29, 2012 at 11:25 am

    That phrase has become such a cliche. I don't mind it being used here and there, but it's become a standard that's employed far too often. Even in court filings

  • 11. bayareajohn  |  June 29, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Agreed that it has a place, as in 'Loving same sex couples are waiting for their chance to marry." Totally legitimate. But "Courts will review the right of loving same sex couples to marry," entirely out of place, changing the meaning of the facts in order to push a sympathetic word into the mix. Just stop it.

  • 12. Scott Wooledge  |  June 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    For most of the 20th century it was conventional wisdom that gay people were totally sick and incapable of "loving."

    As a rhetorical frame, it's a big step up from "sick, bathroom-cruising, perverts," that was the preferred description in the Anita Bryant days.

  • 13. bayareajohn  |  June 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

    SO per…. the word was in fact OPPOSITE, not the OPPOSE as in the article here.

  • 14. Scott Wooledge  |  June 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Seems a win. I like the use of "limiting," stands in stark contrast to our "freedom-loving" opponents in the Tea Party.

    Not that they'll care. They're all for limiting "those peoples'" freedom.*

    *Basically, anyone who isn't a white, hetero, Christian is undeserving of freedumb.

  • 15. fiona64  |  June 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Basically, anyone who isn't a white, hetero, Christian *male* is undeserving of freedumb.

    There. I fixed it for you.

  • 16. Steven .k  |  June 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    <img src=""/>Hehe i don't blame you guys, the title pretty much misled me too.<img src=""/&gt;

  • 17. Greyhound81  |  June 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    the language also closely follows what is on the new T-Shirts and lawn signs.

    Vote No. Don't limit the freedom to marry. Freedom seems to be the new word it appears.

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