Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin said Thursday efforts by Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, to place a constitutional amendment that would define marriage on the ballot are a distraction and duplicative.
“We already have a law on the books (defining marriage),” he said. “I’m not a big fan of enshrining discrimination in the state Constitution.”
Martin said most people, particularly in areas with high unemployment such as Brainerd, care about jobs and home foreclosures and not divisive social issues.
“That (unemployment) should be our first focus,” he said.
Gazelka said in a phone interview from St. Paul that for thousands of years marriage has been defined as between a man and a woman and it’s only in recent years that activist judges have thrown out laws that were on the books. He said Martin’s comments about what priorities should be were disingenuous.
“We deal with more than 1,000 bills in a session,” Gazelka said. “We’ve been working on the budget since January. We’re now into April and dealing with some of the other policy issues, one of them being this issue. It is an issue people want to weigh in on. The polls that we’ve taken show that over 75 percent of the people of Minnesota want the opportunity to vote on this. That doesn’t mean they will vote for it but they think it should be a decision made by the people of Minnesota.
“If the choice is between the people and activist judges or a body of legislators, I think the people can make the best decision on this.”
Martin was touring 8th Congressional District communities Thursday talking to media outlets and meeting with Democrats.
He said people in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community should have the right to marry and that it was a human rights issue.
“Our party supports marriage equality,” Martin said.
Martin, who grew up in Eden Prairie, worked on Paul Wellstone’s U.S. Senate campaign; worked to elect a DFL governor as executive director of WIN Minnesota; and was director of Gov. Mark Dayton’s recount effort. He ran the Vote Yes campaign to pass the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. He has been a member of the DFL Party State Executive Committee, the Budget Committee and other party offices since 1997.
Turning to DFL efforts to win back the 8th Congressional District seat Republican Chip Cravaack won in 2010, Martin said he would like to avoid a primary battle by getting DFL candidates to pledge to abide by the endorsement. He also would like to find a way to coalesce around a candidate as early as possible. While the 8th District may not be as Democratic as it was in past years he said it still has among the highest Democratic numbers of any seat held by a first-term Republican.
“We don’t want to give Chip Cravaack any opening to win this thing,” Martin said.
MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.