MARSHALL - The discussion surrounding a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment on the definition of marriage can easily turn heated. But it's important to put aside emotions and talk about the government issues at stake, Richard Aleman said Tuesday night.
"This is about ideas. This is not about persons," Aleman said. "There is no reason we cannot disagree and still love each other."
Aleman, outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, was the speaker at a forum on the marriage amendment in Marshall. The Minnesota Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, he said.
On Nov. 6, the question of whether the Minnesota Constitution should be amended to recognize only marriages between one man and one woman will be put to voters. Aleman stressed to an audience of about 20 people gathered at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church that passing the marriage amendment was not about religion, same-sex couples, or about the value of romantic relationships. Instead, it was about the public purpose of marriage, he said.
"This is a very strong cause," Aleman said.
Aleman said the reason why marriage is important as a civil institution is because it involves raising children. Love and commitment are important in marriage, but they are not its primary purpose in society. And, he said, "Children fare best when they are raised by a mom and a dad."
The idea that a man, a woman and children are central to the definition of marriage is also reflected in Minnesota statutes for obtaining marriage annulments and outlawing adultery, Aleman said.
In discussing the marriage amendment, Aleman said it was important to distinguish between rights and licenses. Minnesota citizens are guaranteed certain rights, like the right to vote. However, he said marriage involves a license - if a person doesn't meet certain qualifications, he or she cannot obtain a license.
Passing the marriage amendment will not restrict anyone's rights, Aleman said. Minnesota statutes already define marriage as a civil contract between a man and a woman, and there are other restrictions on who can get married, Aleman said.
"No one is attempting to legalize same-sex marriage," he said. "The attempt here is to redefine marriage."
Aleman said there are already attempts to redefine marriage going on in Minnesota. A lawsuit seeking to overturn the state's current marriage laws is currently in Hennepin County Court. Making the definition of marriage part of the Minnesota Constitution would mean the voters, and not politicians or judges, would have the final say in defining marriage, he said.