Almost one year after state lawmakers passed the Marriage Amendment Bill, and just days after the house and senate passed the Voter ID Bill, it appears that Minnesota voters will be asked to approve a third constitution-altering ballot measure.
Lawmakers in both chambers rapidly worked out a narrow vote over the weekend to pass a traditional clothing bill. Like the marriage and voter ID bills, this will bypass the governor by being put on the November ballot for voters to decide. If voters approve the bill it will be illegal for women to wear pants (including blue jeans) and men to wear dresses (including kilts).
Additionally, the proposed clothing amendment will ban the manufacturing, selling, possession, and wearing of clothing made from blended fabrics.
“Most of our merchandise will be considered contraband if the voters approve this law,” Maplewood Burlington Coat Factory manager Stephanie Hawkins said. “If it passes I may have to move to a more tolerant state like Iowa.”
All states, including Iowa, have no gender-based restrictions on clothing and still allow the sale and manufacturing of blended fabric.
Unlike most states, however, Iowa legalized same-sex marriage after the state’s Supreme Court unanimously approved it in 2009. Iowa became the third state in the nation to extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians.
If the traditional clothing law passes it will be the first of its kind in the United States. “My parents came here from Somalia to escape authoritarian intolerance,” said Fahima Abdi. “These sex and gender amendments are eerily reminiscent of the strict burka and marriage laws enforced by the fundamentalist warlords who took over my homeland over 20 years ago.”
Groups that support the Minnesota marriage amendment are also raising substantial money for the clothing amendment. The Minnesota Catholic Conference has already raised $265,000 to help campaign for the clothing amendment and the Minnesota Family Council said that their traditional clothing fund is up to $73,000.
“We believe most Minnesotans support a traditional culture where gender is clearly defined and where we’re all forbidden to enjoy the same-sex pleasures that many of us desire,” says Tom Prichard, President of Minnesota Family Council.
“Our creator intended men and women to procreate and raise families without the confusion or satanic-induced curiosity of gay and lesbian sexual activities,” Prichard added. “How is our society to survive if mothers wear blue jeans and fathers wear pink shirts?”
The Minnesota Family Council’s website cites a variety of bible verses supporting their views including Deuteronomy 22:5, which says God detests women in men’s clothing as well as men in women’s clothing. Another bible verse quoted on the council’s website is Leviticus 19:19, which says God forbids the donning of clothes “woven of two kinds of material.”
Some lawmakers insist that the clothing amendment is not rooted in discrimination. "This is not about hating women who wear pants and men who wear dresses, nor is it about intolerance," said Rep. Tara Mack, R- Apple Valley, chief author of the clothing bill. "I am faithful that we can have a respectful dialogue on this issue and allow the people of Minnesota to decide whether they want to live in a state condoning gender related abominations against God.”
The textiles and human rights lobby are both decrying the law as an unconstitutional overreach of government. “Both federal and state courts have found same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional,” says Sarah Warbelow, director of Human Rights Campaign. “It should be painfully obvious to anyone with a pulse that the courts will find a law restricting clothing based on gender to be unconstitutional as well.”
Carlos Moore, executive vice president of the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, says it makes no sense for lawmakers to spend time on gender-related issues.
“This is America”, Moore said. “And in America we should be free to wear what we want and marry who we want as long as we’re not hurting anybody else.”
Mr. Moore also said that he has concerns about what damage could be done to Minnesota’s economy if retailers are forced to pull their fabric-blended clothes from the shelves.
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, is confident that there won’t be a negative affect on the state’s economy.
“People will still need clothing”, Limmer said. “They’ll just have to wear state approved clothing for their state approved marriages, which means they’ll be pumping money into the economy when shopping for appropriate clothing at the shopping mall.”
Minnesota led the nation in voter turnout with 77.8 percent during the last presidential election in 2008. With a presidential election, a U.S. senate seat up for grabs, and an unprecedented three ballot measures, voter turnout might even surpass the 2008 turnout.
Happy April Fool’s Day!