When voters defeated the marriage amendment on Election Day, the battle over same-sex marriage in Minnesota seemed to abate -- but after a couple of months, both sides are gearing up again.
With a Democratic majority heading to the state Legislature, it seems the debate is entering Round 2. Leaders on both sides of the marriage equality issue have met with their members and have decided to keep going.
This time, instead of fighting over a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the discussion is now shifting to whether gay marriage should be legalized in the state.
When the Vote No campaign workers learned the marriage amendment had failed to pass, the room erupted in cheers. Now, they say they are ready to take the next step.
Organizers with Minnesotans United for All Families initially said there were no plans beyond defeating the ballot initiative, but they now plan to lobby state lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage in the next legislative session.
The group says they know lawmakers have other priorities -- including erasing a billion-dollar deficit, but they believe marriage equality can be a priority too.
"We realized that this was a great opportunity to continue the conversation we started 18 months ago," said Jake Loesch. "Bring it to a close and make sure that all the loving and committed couples have the freedom to marry in Minnesota -- and 2013 is the year we want to accomplish that."
They already have at least one state lawmaker on their side. The day after the election, Sen. John Marty said he wanted to introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage within the first few weeks of the new session -- and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign a marriage equality bill.
Yet, opponents of same-sex marriage say the push to legalize proves the marriage amendment was needed, and the group Minnesotans for Marriage insists the issue is hardly decided because the effort to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman passed in 75 of Minnesota's 87 counties.
"People who voted no or left it blank -- it wasn't necessarily that they wanted to legalize gay marriage," Autumn Leva said. "It was because they were promised nothing would change."
Both campaigns still have many connections to advocate their positions. Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom will remain with Minnesotans United, which boasts tens of thousands of volunteers and a mailing list believed to be one of the most valuable in the state. On the other hand, Minnesotans for Marriage says it still has 90,000 supporters ready to defend traditional marriage.