As you know, last month I blogged about how the Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, updated the title of the marriage amendment that will appear on Minnesota ballots. Ritchie’s reasoning is that the new name better reflects the fact that this amendment would “limit” the rights of marriage to opposite-sex couples. Of course, this change caused quite a bit of controversy with Minnesota for Marriage suing the Secretary of State.
In an opinion piece in the Star Tribune, William McGeveran and Myron Orfield (both law professors at the University of Minnesota) attempt to clear up whether or not Ritchie was within his rights to do this. The authors indicate that you don’t need a fancy law degree to find the answer:
…you don’t have to be a law professor, or even a lawyer, to understand the constitutional argument. Junior high school civics will be plenty.
A Minnesota law, first enacted in 1919, says, “The secretary of state shall provide an appropriate title” for every question on the ballot. (Notice that’s “shall,” not “may” — and that it’s “appropriate,” not “whatever the proposal’s boosters prefer.”) It’s all part of the secretary’s role as the state’s chief election officer, which also includes everything from certifying voting systems to registering candidates.
So, if you look at the law as it’s written, it seems pretty cut and dry. In fact, the authors go on to share that there have been over 100 ballot questions since 1919 and that the secretary of state has always picked the titles without anyone objecting. Of course, that is, until now.
Let’s hope that the new amendment title sticks and that voters realize that it’s truly is about limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples.