Thursday, May 5th, 2011...1:52 pm

DFL Rep. Steve Simon’s comments on amendment to ban same-sex marriage gain national audience

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Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, delivered some low-key comments during the Monday meeting of the Minnesota House of Representatives civil law committee. The matter at hand was HF1613, the bill to add an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. The bill would put the question on the 2012 ballot statewide.

Simon, who is active in Jewish communal affairs, thinks the proposal is a bad idea; and he framed his remarks to challenge the religious arguments of those who believe that God is anti-gay.

In a quite reasonable analysis, Simon suggested that homosexuality is innate in an individual’s character — an aspect of “nature” rather than “nurture” — and quoted a Senate committee witness, a Christian clergyman, who said that “sexuality and sexual orientation are a gift from God.”

Simon, a lawyer who was elected from suburban Minneapolis to the state House in 2004, asked lawmakers to reflect on the question that “if sexual orientation is innate, God-given, then what does it mean to the moral force of your argument?”

Then the comment that has struck a chord across the nation followed: “To put it in the vernacular, what I would ask is, How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?

Simon’s rhetorical question elicited applause from spectators in the hearing room. Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, the committee chair, then rapped his gavel and said, “Please keep applause to yourselves.”

The UpTake ported Simon’s comments to YouTube, and the video has now garnered more than 244,000 379,000 views. The clip has gone viral on the Web; the Gawker Web site promoted Simon, a state legislator, with the headline: “Hero Minnesota Congressman Delivers Great New Slogan for Gay Equality.” Here’s the video clip:

In the 2010 elections, both the Minnesota House and Senate flipped from DFL to Republican control. Although a state statute already bans same-sex marriage in Minnesota, the vast majority of Republican lawmakers favor a statewide vote on the constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex unions.

Since the governor, Mark Dayton, a DFLer, cannot veto a constitutional amendment proposal, Minnesotans likely will go to the polls next year and consider adding a section to article XIII of the state constitution that would read: “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

— Mordecai Specktor

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