Supporters of gay marriage in Minnesota cheered on November 6 when a proposed amendment to ban it was defeated.

A look back at how Minnesota broke a winning streak for opponents of marriage equality is carefully retold in a Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) special report titled EIGHTEEN MONTHS TO HISTORY: How the Minnesota marriage amendment was defeated – money, passion, allies.

The report takes us back to 2010, when Republicans regained control of the Legislature and vowed to shore up the state's law denying gay and lesbian couples the right to marry with a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union.

Republicans approved the amendment last May, sending it to voters for their approval.

“We launched Minnesotans United for All Families that night,” said Monica Meyer, the executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state's largest gay rights advocate.

Also in from the start was Ann Kaner-Roth of Project 515.

We wanted to take action so “people could see that not all hope was lost,” Meyer explained.

Minnesotans United raised more than $12 million, dwarfing the efforts of Minnesota for Marriage, the campaign supporting passage of the amendment, which raised less than half of that amount.

In June, John Helmberger, chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, dismissed the financial disparity, saying money wasn't an issue because “We don't have to change a lot of minds, because the majority of people are with us already.”

Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United, credited a conversation strategy for its win.

“In the past, our side of the fight has focused on rights and equality and that this is discrimination,” said Alison Froehle, who trained volunteers on implementing the conversations. “But that frame of mind does not move voters. So what we're doing on this campaign is, we're having conversations from the heart. We're taking it from an abstract frame of mind and into the personal, reminding people that this is going to hurt real people.”

Carlbom added that the strategy worked because it was “not just Minnesotans talking to Minnesotans. It's Lutherans talking to Lutheran, Catholic talking to Catholic.”

Many media outlets have focused on the defeat of the amendment, leaving out its implications. While supporters of the ban were motivated by a desire to block courts and lawmakers from extending marriage to gay couples, the 18-month campaign might have created the groundswell of support needed to do just that. Next year's legislative session will see new leadership after voters returned control of both chambers of the Legislature to Democrats.

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