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An Open Letter

An Open Letter

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Published by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger on May 04, 2011
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05/25/2011

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An Open Letter to the Members of the MinnesotaSenate and House of Representatives
 
We, the undersigned members of the University of Minnesota Law School faculty, oppose a proposedconstitutional amendment (S.F. 1308, H.F. 1613, and related proposals)
(“t
he proposed
amendment”)
that wouldamend the state constitution to provide, "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized asa marriage in Minnesota." State statutes already prohibit same-sex couples from marrying and already prohibit thestate from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and countries. The proposed amendment wouldprevent even a future state legislature from recognizing such marriages. We urge you to reject it.The proposed amendment would set in constitutional cement the existing hardships on thousands of families,including children, that many in the legal profession serve. Attorneys practicing in such diverse areas as familylaw, estate planning, real estate, tax, and beyond represent people across Minnesota who confront complex legalchallenges because they are currently unable to enter a legally-recognized relationship with a same-sex partner. Atthe same time, the proposed amendment does not help existing marriages.The potential applications of an amendment and its collateral consequences in other areas of the law could be far-reaching. Frankly, the full implications of the proposed amendment are unknown. Accordingly, it will likelygenerate litigation over both its validity and its scope; in effect, the legislature is inviting significant and needlessexpense for the state and its citizens during a time of extraordinary economic difficulty.In its 153 years of statehood, Minnesota has enacted many changes in the practice and law of marriage, and infamily-related topics like divorce and adoption. Many of these changes have been controversial and havegenerated considerable debate in the state legislature and among the public. Minnesotans of good will maycontinue to debate the merits of legally recognizing same-sex couples through marriage or some other status. Butin its entire history, Minnesota has never cut short the ordinary legislative process regarding marriage and familylaw by enshrining one particular view into its constitution. There is no compelling need to do so now.It is an evasion to say that the proposed amendment should be placed on the ballot simply to allow a popular vote.State legislators have an obligation under Minnesota's constitutional amendment process to exercise independent judgment about whether a constitutional amendment is needed, advisable, and worth the expenditure of time andresources it would consume. State legislators have historically fulfilled that obligation. Very few proposedamendments ever reach the ballot. Far from being a worthwhile use of legislators' and the public's attention, theproposed amendment would be a wasteful and harmful diversion away from the state's immediate need to focuson many other pressing problems.Respectfully,Undersigned members of the faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School. Affiliation for identificationonly. The views expressed in this letter are those of the individual signers and not necessarily those of the LawSchool or the University of Minnesota.
 
Professor Edward Adams Professor Beverly Balos (emerita) Professor Stephen BedfortMinneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor Howard Bergman Professor Brian Bix Professor Susanna BlumenthalEdina, MN Minnetonka, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor David Bryden (emeritus) Professor Ann Burkhart Profess Dale CarpenterMinneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor Carol Chomsky Professor Brad Clary Professor Nancy Cook Minneapolis, MN St. Paul, MN St. Paul, MNProfessor Laura Cooper Professor Tom Cotter Professor Prentiss CoxMinneapolis, Mn Plymouth, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor Stephen J. Cribari Professor Antony Duff Professor Allan ErbsenMinneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor Barry Feld Professor Mary Lou Fellows (emerita) Professor Richard FraseEffie, MN Minneapolis, MN MinneapolisProfessor Daniel Gifford Professor Michele Goodwin Professor Oren GrossMinneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MN Hopkins, MNProfessor Ralph Hall Professor Jill Hasday Professor Kristin HickmanNorth Oaks, MN Minneapolis, MN St. Paul, MNProfessor Claire Hill Professor Joan Howland Professor Brad KarkkainenSt. Paul, MN Minneapolis, MN St. Paul, MNProfessor Heidi Kitrosser Professor Alexandra Klass Professor Herbert M. KritzerMinneapolis, MN St. Paul, MN St. Paul, MNProfessor Maury Landsman (emeritus) Professor Robert J. Levy (emeritus) Professor Sandra MarshallMinneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor John Matheson Professor Brett McDonnell Professor William McGeveranPlymouth, MN Minneapolis, MN St. Paul, MNProfessor Steve Meili Professor Amy B. Monahan Professor Perry MorieartySt. Paul, MN St. Paul, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor Fred Morrison Professor Fionnuala Ni Aoláin Professor Myron OrfieldMinneapolis, MN Hopkins, MN Minneapolis, MNProfessor Hari Osofsky Professor Richard W. Painter Professor Kevin ReitzSt. Paul, MN Edina, MN St. Paul, MNProfessor Christopher Roberts Professor Daniel Schwarcz Professor Gregory ShafferMinneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis, MN

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