Monday night, August 20, 2012, theWinona Minnesota City Council implemented a self-imposed gag order: It failed to discuss a controversial resolution concerning the proposed constitutional marriage amendment by allowing a motion to approve that resolution to die for lack of a second. It is clear that the council did not wish to discuss this issue.

Had the council decided to discuss the issue, the motion to approve might still have failed, but at least a conversation would have taken place.
Setting aside the Catholic Church’s confusion of this amendment with the Sacrament of Matrimony for a moment, let’s look only at the very legitimate concern of restricting the rights of the people within the constitution.

Article I of the Minnesota State Constitution — the only article that addresses the status of people in the state of Minnesota — is a Bill of Rights. It is not a Bill of Limitations.

All other articles of the constitution discuss limitations upon government. The constitution, therefore, grants power and rights to the people and restricts the power and rights of government. There is no place in the constitution for this amendment. Inserting it into the constitution would make the constitution itself internally inconsistent, because this amendment would violate Article I, Section 16 of the constitution’s own Bill of Rights.

Clearly this is not a constitutional issue. If the legislature wishes to limit the rights of the people, it should do so by means of laws that are subject to the vetting processes of the courts. If the political climate prevents passage of such an issue at this time, then patience, not an illegal amendment to the constitution, is what is called for.

The city council did not need to take a stance on the morality of same sex marriage Monday night. The council only had to oppose the amendment based upon the appropriateness of its inclusion in the state’s constitution. That is a legitimate concern of any unit of government — indeed of any citizen — in the state of Minnesota.

Instead, the council imposed a gag order upon itself — and no discussion took place.