NEW ULM - Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey analyzed arguments for and against the Voter ID and Marriage Amendments and discussed why the debate over them matters for democracy Monday at the New Ulm Public Library.
Lindsey discussed how state demographics have changed dramatically over the past decade, how predominately white worker retirement of the "baby boom" generation will accelerate in the coming years while the share of people of color in the workforce will more than double.
Citing the Human Rights Act, Lindsey said "any form of discrimination that is allowed to erect itself is a threat to the foundation of democracy."
Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey
Lindsey said the Marriage Amendment would amend Minnesota's Constitution to permanently limit the freedom to marry to same sex couples in Minnesota. He called it "a threat to democracy and the rights and privileges it offers."
Whether Minnesotans approve or disapprove the Amendment, there will be no change in Minnesota law on same sex marriage - same sex couples will remain unable to legally marry, according to a Minnesota Department of Human Rights news release.
Approving the Amendment will change the Minnesota Constitution by limiting the freedom of same sex couples to ever marry in Minnesota. Disapproving the Amendment leaves the Minnesota Constitution as it is.
Lindsey said he's against the Marriage Amendment because it:
1. Opens the door for government to regulate religious practices.
2. Sets a dangerous precedent, removing fundamental rights by limiting marriage.
3. Is inconsistent with constitutional equal protection.
Lindsey said Marriage Amendment passage would entangle marriage and the constitution.
He asked what role government would play in marriage disputes.
"Would the government recognize marriage annulments?" Lindsey asked. "What if the Catholic Church does not annul a marriage. Would it be decided by a judge? Religious freedom is best preserved by separating church and state. In our society, anyone can pursue happiness as long as they don't hurt others. Why take a step back and create intolerance?"
Regarding the Voter ID Amendment, Lindsey said 113 people were investigated for voter fraud in the 2008 General Election but none of them were convicted.
"There was no evidence of Minnesota voter impersonation in 2008," Lindsey said. "If you want to stop photo identity theft, you have to increase the penalty."
He said the Voter ID Amendment will disenfranchise tens of thousands of elderly voters without driver's licenses, which included an estimated 540,000 voters in 2008.
Lindsey said deployed military members, college students and many voters, especially people born in very small towns, without birth certificates will also become disenfranchised voters if the Amendment passes.
He said the Voter ID Amendment would cost Kittson County taxpayers, which a population of about 5,000 in the northwest corner of Minnesota an estimated $730,000 to implement.
Lindsey said the Amendment would end Election Day Registration as it now exists. If passed, voters could register at the polls, but they will have to cast provisional ballots that will be counted later, only if a voter's identity and eligibility can be verified, while costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
The New Ulm League of Women Voters hosts a District 88 candidate forum at 7 p.m., today at New Ulm City Hall.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).