Minnesota

  • July 1, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Senator Terri Bonoff, (DFL – Minnetonka), Minnesota State Senate. Sen. Bonoff is chairperson of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.

    I was a proud co-author of the Minnesota Marriage Equality Law that recently passed in our legislative session that ended May 21. As many know, the law will take effect on August 1, 2013. August 1, is my birthday. On my 50th birthday the University Avenue bridge fell, making my birthday bittersweet in the years following. While I am a “holiday” gal, love to celebrate, sharing the day with those who lost so much has made the day also marked by sorrow.

    I am pleased to mark my forthcoming birthday, with something to celebrate - marriage equality. As a Democrat from a western suburban district that leans Republican, I am truly a swing voter in every way. I not only represent swing voters I am fiercely independent myself - my votes on fiscal matters often line up with my colleagues on the other side. Yet on matters of social justice, I am clear where I stand. It is because of this that I believe I was asked to be a co-author. I told my community during the campaign that I would not vote to raise their income taxes, but I would vote to support marriage equality. I did not say, “Don’t vote for the constitutional amendment because it is not necessary - our laws dictate that only one man and one woman can marry.” Instead I said, “I am for marriage equality, and you?” There was no confusion in my community about where I stood -- I put it in newspaper surveys, on my website and spoke of it in debates.

  • May 7, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    As the U.S. Supreme Court tries to figure out how it will handle California’s anti-equality law, Proposition 8, and the federal government’s equally noxious Defense of Marriage Act, a number of progressive-leaning states are moving forward on expanding liberty.

    Last week Rhode Island become the 10th state to enact legislation allowing same-sex couples to wed and it appears Minnesota and Delaware may be closely following suit. Before the Rhode Island legislature gave final approval of the marriage equality measure R.I. Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee (I), celebrated the impending law, saying, “We will be open for business, and we will once again affirm our legacy as a place that is tolerant and appreciative of diversity.”

    The Minnesota House has scheduled a vote for this week on a marriage equality bill, the Pioneer Press reports. The newspaper reports that the House speaker has determined he has the requisite votes to pass the measure and send it to the Senate, where its leaders say they are confident they have the votes to approve it. Gov. Mark Dayton said he would sign the marriage equality bill into law.  

    Delaware lawmakers are also on the verge of advancing equality. The state House has already passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriage and the Senate, the Associated Press reports, is preparing to vote today on the measure. The AP also notes the state’s Democratic Gov. Jack Markell has “promised to sign the measure ….”

    While marriage equality is hardly the capstone of LGBT equality, it is nonetheless an important part of the efforts to achieve equality under the law. (In this post, it’s noted that federal lawmakers are pushing other measures to protect LGBT people in the workforce and LGBT military families.)

    The states moving to end discrimination against same-sex couples – at least in the arena of granting marriage licenses and state benefits that come with legally recognized unions – provide a strong argument for federalism. That is, many argue – including some pro-equality individuals and groups – that states are moving along to recognize same-sex marriage and there is no reason for the Supreme Court to upset the process by, say, finding that states refusing to recognize same-sex marriage are violating the equal rights of lesbians and gay couples.

  • November 7, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Dish headline called it the “single biggest night for gay rights in electoral history.” And it’s hard to mess with that assessment. Voters in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota voted in favor of marriage equality.

    But beyond those ballot measure victories, Andrew Sullivan reports that gay men and lesbians made up five percent of the electorate, the vast majority of them supporting Obama, “the first president to support marriage equality, and who mentioned gays by name for the first time in the history of victory speeches.”

    Then of course, there was the election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, the first openly gay person to serve in that chamber.

    But Sullivan’s post provides plenty of detail of the efforts to defeat the equality measures, including the funding and work of the National Organization for Marriage, a religious right outfit that strives to scuttle marriage equality by employing tired tactics of demonization. NOM says its mission is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.” Sullivan highlights a piece from Adam Serwer reporting that NOM “believed that putting forth black and Latino spokespeople, they could discredit the idea of same-sex marriage as a civil rights cause and drive a wedge between two typically Democratic constituencies…".

    In Maryland Serwer concluded NOM’s strategy appeared rather wobbly.

    Indeed, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Coalition, said part of the success in Maryland involved creating partnerships with other civil liberties groups, such as the NAACP, clergy and businesses, The Washington Post reported.

  • April 13, 2010
    Guest Post

    By David Carroll, Director of Research, National Legal Aid & Defender Association

    The Star Tribune reports that line public defenders in 11 Minnesota counties have filed a labor grievance over excessive workload. The grievance sites a February 2010 Legislative Auditor's report that states that the average Minnesota public defender caseload in 2009 was 779 cases, or nearly twice the national caseload standard for misdemeanor cases only. The National Advisory Commission (NAC) on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals first developed numerical caseload limits in 1973 under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice that state a public defender attorney should not exceed more than 400 misdemeanor cases in a single year if that is the only type of case she handles. The American Bar Association's Ten Principles instruct that caseloads should "under no circumstances exceed" these numerical limits.

    One problem cited in the Legislative Auditor's report is that excessive caseloads are limiting supervisors' abilities to properly monitor and coach assistant public defenders as supervisors themselves are carrying too many cases. Forty-three percent of public defenders surveyed by the Auditor's Office responded that "their supervisors in the past year had not reviewed any of their cases in the context of assessing performance." The actions of the line attorneys filing a grievance reflect the recommendations of the ABA Ethics Opinion that states, "[i]f the supervisor fails to provide appropriate assistance or relief, the lawyer should continue to advance up the chain of command" until relief is addressed.

    Structurally, Minnesota is one of a handful of states that more readily meets Gideon's promise. A statewide, independent Board of Public Defense oversees representation of accused people of insufficient means in each of Minnesota's 87 counties.