Address to the Mankato City Council concerning the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment
Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D.
Mankato, Minnesota, August 13, 2012
Good evening. My name is Ryan MacPherson. I thank you for this opportunity to share my concerns about the Mankato City Council’s deliberations of the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment.
With all due respect to the members of this council, I caution against any action, either for or against the amendment, because such action falls beyond the appropriate scope of council activities.
The Charter of the City of Mankato, section 1.02, requires that this council “exercise [its powers] in harmony with the constitutions of this State and of the United States.”
Let us consider, therefore, what the Minnesota and United States constitutions each say.
Under the authority vested by the Minnesota State Constitution, the state legislature has enacted marriage laws. Chapter 117, section 8, of the state statutes assigns the administration of marriage licensing to the counties of this state. No such state law assigns any responsibilities to city councils with respect to evaluating who is eligible to obtain a marriage license. Nor does the state constitution assign cities any such jurisdiction regarding marriage regulations.
Even the Mankato City Code, when addressing human rights issues in Section 2.42, defines the role of the city’s Human Rights Commission thus: “provide education and informational activities” and “advise the City Council and departments on human rights issues.” Members of the commission are expressly prohibited from “mak[ing] any findings, determinations, or issu[ing] any orders or directives as to whether an act of discrimination has occurred.” Therefore, recommending a position on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment under the pretense that current or proposed policy is discriminatory blatantly exceeds the commission’s and the council’s proper scope.
As for the United States Constitution, the Supreme Court already has determined that the Minnesota statutory definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman presents no constitutional problems. The case involved a Minnesota same-sex couple challenging the state law. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, Baker v. Nelson (1971), “for want of a substantial federal question.” That statement remains the high court’s final word on this matter, to this very day.
Therefore, if the Supreme Court of the United States leaves marriage as something for state law to define, and if state law offers no special role for city councils, then why should the members of this council be taking the issue up at all? The state constitution does provide for the Minnesota legislature to refer matters to the people of this state, which is what our state legislature has done by proposing the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment.
For these reasons, I kindly ask this council to step dutifully aside. Let the people of Minnesota, including the people of this city, cast their ballots in November, without any undue influence, without any undue pressure from this council.