Kathleen Gilbert


Minnesota Supreme Court removes deceptive marriage amendment ballot title

Kathleen Gilbert

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, August 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) — The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Monday that two elected state officials overstepped their authority in changing the title of a marriage ballot initiative in support of traditional marriage against the will of its backers.

Supporters sued after Secretary of State Mark Ritchie changed the title from “Recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman” to “Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and ActRight Legal Foundation attorneys represented numerous state legislators as well as the committee supporting the amendment in the suit.

“Minnesotans deserve to have free and fair elections, and they deserve to know precisely what they are voting for,” said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who argued before the high court as lead counsel in the case, Limmer v. Ritchie, last month.

“Because the Legislature wrote a ballot title for the marriage amendment, no official in the executive branch has any authority to replace or modify that title - especially not with one that incorrectly describes the amendment’s effect,” Lorence said. “Voters have the right to know that the amendment is designed to protect the ‘recognition of marriage solely between one man and one woman,’ as the legislature accurately specified.”

After the Minnesota Legislature wrote the ballot title for the amendment Secretary of State Mark Ritchie changed the ballot title to the “limiting” language, saying it was consistent with Attorney General Lori Swanson’s chosen statement of purpose and effect. Swanson approved the change.

Minnesota’s high court agreed that neither official had the authority to override the Legislature’s title, saying that “to simply ignore the Legislature’s action in proposing and passing a title” to the ballot question “potentially risks interfering with the Legislature’s constitutional authority.”

“[W]hen the Legislature has included a title for a ballot question in the bill proposing a constitutional amendment, the ‘appropriate title’ the Secretary of State must provide for that ballot question is the title designated by the Legislature,” the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded in its opinion.

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