It appears to be very significant to field test with and poll people using the expected language used on Minnesota’s proposed constitutional amendment and not its converse.
Expected language of the proposed constitutional amendment:
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?
Why it’s important to use the above language as we engage Minnesotans in conversation about voting NO on this proposed amendment:
1. Conservatives acknowledge that when they polled people about a question such as “Are you in favor of a banning gay marriage?” in contrast with a question such as “Should marriage be defined as between a man and a woman?” the difference in opinion polls was TEN POINTS.
- Source: quotation from Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)
- Related material, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Conservative columnist, Katherine Kersten
2. The more time Minnesotans have to think about the actual question that will be posed, the more time they have to “unpack” what is hidden in that question.
Example 1: Why don’t Conservatives want to use the question “Shall Minnesota ban gay marriage”?
When have there been other times when the population wanted to define marriage so as to restrict minority groups from being able to marry, and where do those groups stand now?
- Blacks couldn’t marry blacks at one point
- Interracial marriage was illegal until 44 years ago
Example 2: Why do Conservatives want an amendment on top of the DOMA law, which already defines marriage as between a man and a woman?
- The complaint is “activist judges.”
- This proposed amendment is about obstructionist politics.
Example 3: When have there been other times in history when a minority group has had their rights put to a vote, and how do those times reflect on the current proposed amendment?
- All sorts of laws regarding the rights of enslaved Africans
- The right for women to own property or to vote
- The right for African Americans to vote (cf. poll taxes)
3. Anecdotal evidence when asking Minnesotans about their view on same-sex couples and same-sex marriage.
I live in the Twin Cites. I’ve asked a small sample of Minnesotans who also live in the Twin Cities about their views on same-sex marriage. All of them (100%), including strangers, said they either support same-sex marriage or that we should “live and let live,” “keep what goes on in the bedroom private,” etc. BUT– when I then asked the question as it is phrased in the proposed amendment, all but two (80%) answered they would vote FOR the amendment. When they were told about the incongruence between their initial stance on same-sex marriage and how they responded to the amendment, most were embarrassed or taken aback when they realized they would have voted for something they didn’t want to endorse.
This anecdotal evidence may well point to the importance of making Minnesotans aware of how the question will be phrased on the 2012 ballot and how the question is directly related to the issue of marriage equality and supporting same-sex marriage.