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Marriage amendment backers ask court to overturn title

ST. PAUL -- Supporters of a constitutional amendment proposal to ban gay marriage are asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to reject a rewritten title that voters will see when they vote on the proposal Nov. 6.

Republican legislators and Minnesota for Marriage, an umbrella group supporting the amendment, today asked the high court to return the title to how it passed the Legislature: "Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman."

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie rewrote the title last month to be: "Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples."

GOP amendment supporters said Richie, supported by the attorney general's office, exceeded his legal authority to change the title. The title was approved by 49 of 67 state senators last year, including some Democrats who eventually voted against the amendment.

When the bill Republican legislators passed reached Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's desk, he vetoed it, even though he has no say in constitutional amendments. Ritchie said the veto stripped the amendment of its title and it is his job to make sure each constitutional amendment proposal has a title.

"I'm rather saddened to see a secretary of state get involved in a partisan" issue like the proposal, said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, the chief Senate author of the proposal.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said that changing the title violates the state Constitution because that decision belongs to legislators. "Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is attempting to subvert the will of the people of Minnesota."

While there is no deadline, Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said she expects the high court to accept arguments from both sides and hold a hearing within 45 to 60 days, in time to decide the title issue before ballots are printed.

Republicans said Democrats Ritchie and Attorney General Lori Swanson are working to defeat the GOP-backed proposal.

"Our attorney general knows better," Ortman said.

Ritchie and Swanson's offices offered no immediate reaction to the court filing.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.