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Minnesotans: Vote “No” on both reactionary constitutional amendments

By Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Minnesota District

Stand up for full equality; strike a blow against racist and anti-gay discrimination

On Nov. 6 Minnesotans will join with the rest of the country to vote on Election Day. But in Minnesota there won’t just be politicians on the ballot – there will also be two proposed constitutional amendments to vote on. If the majority of voters vote ‘yes’ on these amendments they will become part of the state constitution. These two referendums are very dangerous.

We urge all Minnesotans to vote “no” on both proposed amendments: the so-called ‘Voter ID’ (voter suppression) amendment and the anti-gay marriage amendment.

They are two birds of the same feather and they should be shot down together. They were purposely put forward together this year by the most conservative forces in the state as a one-two punch to cement anti-gay discrimination into the state constitution and to take votes and power away from African Americans, students, elderly people, homeless people and others without easy access photo identification. The right wing wants to rig the rules of the game so they can’t lose. Both amendments are part of a backlash against gains made in the struggle for democratic rights since the 1960s. Everyone who supports democratic rights and equality should vote “no” on both amendments and should mobilize others to do so too.

Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

We stand for full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people. With the anti-gay marriage amendment, there is a basic principle of equality at stake. As long as heterosexual marriage carries with it rights and concrete benefits recognized by the government (health insurance coverage, hospital visitation, inheritance, etc.), we must fight for gay marriage to be legally recognized too.

To decide which side you’re on, all you really have to do is look at Michele Bachmann at the head of the rogues gallery of reactionary politicians and institutions pushing this amendment to know that “no” is the way to vote.

This is how the ballot will read:

“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?”

Although same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota, these reactionaries aren’t content with that. Why? If the anti-gay amendment passes, future legislatures won’t be able to vote to make gay marriage legal in the state, even if the large majority of legislators wanted to. It would cement discrimination into the constitution, setting the bar ridiculously high to change it.

Marriage equality advocates are doing a great job organizing to defeat this amendment. The bright orange “Vote No” yard signs and stickers are everywhere and the Vote No campaign has a sophisticated presence on social media. While it’s not a given by any stretch, according to polls it’s possible that Minnesota could be the first state to defeat such an anti-gay marriage amendment. All progressive people should help make that happen by getting yard signs, stickers and buttons, talking to your neighbors, co-workers, friends and families, and doing phone banking. There are also some public protests coming up that we must mobilize for in a big way. If we can stop this in Minnesota, it will make reactionary forces think twice before bringing up such undemocratic and discriminatory anti-gay proposals in other states. We can turn the tide nationally to stop anti-gay bigotry.

Voter Suppression Amendment

The ‘Voter ID’ amendment should really be called the voter suppression amendment. Here’s how it reads:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

It sounds so innocent and reasonable – why shouldn’t voters be required to present a photo ID to vote? Especially if they can get one for free? But when you read between the lines and look at the motivations of the people pushing this amendment, in fact it’s a sinister right wing attack.

Minnesota consistently has the highest voter turnout in the nation, due to same-day voter registration and a variety of ways a voter can identify themselves at the polls. And ‘voter fraud’ is non-existent. But the right wing is treating Minnesota’s high voter turnout as something suspicious and sinister, as a problem they intend to fix – by suppressing the vote.

If it passes, hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who currently vote will not be able to vote anymore because they won’t have the officially-approved ID. Same-day registration will be essentially gutted. According to studies, the people pushed out of the voting booth will be disproportionately African Americans, Latinos, students, elderly people and homeless people – people who are less likely to have a government issued photo ID and who will tend to have more barriers to getting one. And not-so-coincidentally they are all groups of people that tend to be more progressive.

The Minnesota Voter ID amendment is part of a national campaign of similar voter suppression measures that Republicans are pushing in many states this year. They claim to be clamping down on voter fraud, but it’s a lie. Getting struck by lightning is more common than voter fraud. The voter suppression efforts are particularly an affront to Black people’s long struggle for full equality, since Black people’s right to vote will be hardest hit by this new voter suppression act. It’s no coincidence that Republicans want to suppress Black votes – polls for the presidential election show Black people voting 94% for Obama and 0% (yes, zero percent!) for Republican Mitt Romney. The Republicans are unabashedly continuing this country’s ugly history of racist oppression and disenfranchisement of Black people. The racist attack on Black people’s voting rights must be stopped.

When they first rolled out the voter suppression amendment, it didn’t take long for the racist character of it to become clear. In February, Minnesota Majority, the group campaigning for the amendment, put out an ad with explicitly racist imagery: a Black man in a prison uniform and a Latino wearing a huge sombrero lining up to vote. See the ad here: Though they quickly pulled the ad when controversy erupted, the ad was not a mistake – it accurately exposed what their real agenda is.

We don’t oppose the Voter ID amendment out of support for the Democrats. We oppose the Voter ID amendment because it's a naked power grab in which the right wing is trying to change the rules of the game so the most reactionary forces win every time. Its effect will be to make any progressive electoral effort more difficult, including progressive referendums and progressive third party efforts. The racist character of it particularly needs to be exposed and rebuffed.

As with the anti-gay marriage amendment, we urge all progressive people to get a yard sign, stickers and buttons urging a NO vote on the voter suppression amendment. Talk to your neighbors, co-workers, family and friends about it, do some phone banking, and help turn the tide.

It’s a very positive sign that the unions in Minnesota and several independent efforts are calling for people to vote against both reactionary constitutional amendments. These efforts should be supported. Fighting back against these amendments together strengthens both movements.

In November, we can make history in Minnesota. The two referendums on the ballot are part of a national reactionary wave that conservatives are pushing in many states. We have an ability to stop that wave in Minnesota.

Organize people to commit to vote “no” on both referendums in November. Talk about them both together as a choreographed one-two punch by the right wing. Through organizing and struggle, we can stop them both and advance the fight for full equality, stopping the bigots in their tracks.

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