[JURIST] Proponents of a Minnesota ballot initiative [text] to ban same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] under the state constitution on Monday petitioned the state Supreme Court [press release] to restore the original title of the proposed amendment. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie last month changed the title of the ballot initiative from “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman” to “Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples.” Advocacy group Minnesota for Marriage [advocacy website], which filed the petition, said that the new title uses “deceptive language” and that Ritchie had overstepped his constitutional authority in making the change. Representative Steve Gottwalt, who joined Minnesota for Marriage along with other Minnesota lawmakers, said Ritchie was subverting the will of the legislature:
This case is about the rights of the people and the legislature to function in a representative democracy without the interference of the executive branch of government. It is also about preserving the constitutional integrity of the amendment process. The Minnesota Constitution grants the power to amend the constitution to the Legislature and the people. Here, the Secretary of State is attempting to interfere by disregarding the given ballot title and replacing it with a misleading and incorrect proposed title.
Minnesota currently has a ban against same-sex marriage by statute. In January, a Minnesota appeals court ordered a trial court to review a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the ban. The appeals court remanded the case because the trial court had not adequately addressed plaintiffs’ equal protection rights under the constitution. The ballot initiative would add the ban to the constitution.
Several states will include a same-sex marriage question on their ballot in the upcoming election. Last month, citizens in Washington and Maryland [JURIST reports] received enough votes to challenge newly passed same-sex marriage legislation. Each state’s ballot will contain a section asking voters to accept or reject the new legislation. Similarly, a group supporting same-sex marriage in Maine achieved enough signatures [JURIST report] in February to have the question of same-sex marriage appear on its ballot. Earlier that month, New Jersey governor Chris Christie vetoed legislation [JURIST report] that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state, and called for a state-wide referendum on the issue.