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Published November 06, 2012, 08:52 AM

Gay marriage, photo ID headline Minnesota ballot issues

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota's angriest electoral fight in memory lurched toward a close on Tuesday, with voters deciding whether to write the state's gay marriage ban into the state constitution in a move supporters said was necessary to keep it from someday being overturned.

By: PATRICK CONDON,Associated Press, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota's angriest electoral fight in memory lurched toward a close on Tuesday, with voters deciding whether to write the state's gay marriage ban into the state constitution in a move supporters said was necessary to keep it from someday being overturned.

The marriage amendment mobilized thousands of volunteers and attracted $16 million in campaign contributions, drawing far more passion than the state's presidential or Senate contests.

Amendment supporters said it was necessary to keep meddlesome legislators or judges from someday forcing gay marriage on the public. Opponents called it discrimination.

The gay marriage test was one of two proposed amendments on Tuesday's ballot. The second would require voters to show photo ID in future elections. Both were put on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature and reflected longtime conservative goals.

Polls consistently showed a tight race on the marriage question, with slightly stronger support for the photo ID measure.

Besides Minnesota, gay marriage is on the ballot in three other states this year — Maine, Maryland and Washington. A win in any of the four would be an important advance for gay rights activists. Although polls show growing public acceptance of same-sex marriage, that hasn't been confirmed in elections, where gay marriage supporters have never won in 32 tries around the country.

The Minnesota amendment asks: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"

The decision is different in the other three states, where the vote is whether or not gay marriage should be legal. Strategy for all four campaigns, including Minnesota's, was directed by Frank Schubert, a California-based consultant who's become the nation's top political operative trying to stop the spread of gay marriage.

Opponents of the amendment tried to persuade moderate and swing voters, aiming their TV ads at married couples and straight men in particular. That drew backlash from some gay activists, dismayed that none of the ads actually featured speaking parts for gay people who would be most affected by the amendment. The campaign also reached out more widely to various demographic groups, using narrowly targeted phone banks to reach senior citizens, younger voters and various ethnic and minority groups. The campaign for the amendment targeted much of its get-out-the-vote efforts on churchgoers.

Those opposed to the Minnesota amendment argued it would make it even tougher for loving couples to have the legal protections and societal benefits of marriage. The main group fighting the amendment had raised about $11 million by the end of October, far more than the leading group in support, which raised about $5 million.

Most of the anti-gay marriage group's money came from Catholic dioceses, evangelical groups and affiliated organizations.

The other constitutional amendment asks: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?"

Republican state lawmakers around the country have pushed the photo ID requirement in recent years, arguing it would enhance the integrity of election results and crack down on possible voter fraud.

In Minnesota, Democrats argued that photo ID is meant to make voting tougher for certain groups that tend to favor Democrats: elderly people, the poor, college students and members of minority groups. Local government officials have also said the ID requirement would be a costly mandate.

Photo ID opponents complained at one point that they weren't getting enough support from liberal groups because they were focused on the gay marriage amendment.

A quirk in Minnesota law means a ballot where the voter skips one or both of the amendments is counted as a "no" vote against the amendment that was skipped. That makes the bar higher for passage. But high interest in Minnesota's two proposed amendments suggested few voters would skip the questions.

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