Would Minnesota Legislators Really Lose Re-Election If They Approve Marriage Equality?

Why is it that GOP candidates are at least a decade behind the curve? The latest example is Scott Honour (really), a businessman seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination who has come out in support of civil unions because they aren’t marriage. Civil unions are so 1997. But in Honour’s eyes, it’s better to be out-of-date than fair.

Honour is trying to stem the tide for marriage equality in his state. The state House of Representatives is scheduled to take up a vote on marriage equality next week. The vote looks close: Speaker Paul Thissen says “I really don’t know” if he has the 68 votes to pass the bill. But the movement certainly seems to be in that direction.

A key state Senator announced recently that he would support the bill, and Brian McClung, a top aide to former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has called on legislators to pass the measure. (Don’t count on Pawlenty, who became the fiercest defender of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when he was running for the GOP presidential nomination.)

The question that fence-sitters are probably pondering is whether supporting marriage equality will hurt them at the polls in 2014. Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger speculates that the vote could cost Thissen his majority as dissatisfied voters express their disapproval at the ballot box. However, statistical wizard (and friend of Dorothy) Nate Silver has projected that a marriage equality ballot measure in Minnesota would pass with 58 percent of the vote in 2016.

True, voters in off-year elections tend to be older and more conservative, but legislators in other states generally didn’t meet their political Armageddon for supporting marriage equality.

Also, there’s this thing called the Supreme Court. The Court’s ruling on DOMA will probably change the political dynamic, even in Minnesota. So the next time a reporter hits the “conventional wisdom” button on the keyboard, remember: the conventional wisdom ain’t so wise right now.