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The marriage vote: Put it to the people

March 20. 2012 8:28PM

No matter which side you take in the same-sex marriage debate, there is one point on which we all should be able to agree: there could be no worse outcome than to have legislators change the state's marriage laws every few years as partisan majorities in the House and Senate fluctuate.

There is one practical solution to that awful possibility: Let the voters decide.

Both sides in this debate claim to have the people with them. The only way to determine who is right is to put the question on a statewide ballot.

That would be an extraordinary step. But this issue is unique. Marriage is a cornerstone of modern civilization. It is not some policy we can or should tinker with from year to year. And the foes have a point when they note that for the most part proponents did not campaign openly on this issue. The people were denied an up-front debate on the question before legislators surprised them with it.

The trouble with the marriage bill up for a vote in the House today is that it continues the back-and-forth tinkering with marriage. It would repeal the existing same-sex marriage law, replace it with civil unions for same-sex couples (while grandfathering all same-sex marriages that already exist), and then call for a referendum on the issue this fall. That is backwards.

Representatives should strip the legal changes so that the bill simply puts the question on this fall's ballot. Let the people decide. Then they can watch the law's proponents argue simultaneously that the people are on their side, but that the people should not be allowed to have a say.

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