It is a given under United States law that the state must have a compelling reason to deny a specific group equal access to basic human rights; I have yet to see Mr. St. Martin put forth a compelling reason for the state to deny same sex couples equal access to civil marriage.
St. Martin introduces a red herring when he asks, "does 'everyone's right' include polygamous and poly-amorous[sic] marriages?" Perhaps someday someone may advocate for polygamy and/or polyamory or even polyandry, but that is not the issue here.
Allowing same sex couples to enter into the civil contract known as marriage would not, in any substantive way, change the definition of civil marriage; it would remain a contract between two consenting adults who are not already close relatives. All that would change is that more consenting, unrelated adult couples would be able to enter into a contract that is currently limited to two people of the opposite gender.
Legalizing polygamy, in contrast, would require a complete rewriting of current civil marriage laws to account for inheritance, child support and custody as well as rights of visitation and power of attorney.
As for religious people being 'silenced', frankly, given the prevalence of churches and the prominence given to prayer and the observance of religious holidays both in Minnesota and the United States as a whole, it is ridiculous to claim that religious voices are stifled.
Nevertheless, civil law must not be based on religious dogma, particularly when that dogma runs counter to the teachings and practices of other, equally valid religious beliefs; we cannot allow our civil law to dictate religious observance or we risk violating both the spirit and the letter of the establishment and free exercise clauses of the First Amendment.
I have not seen even one objection to same sex marriage which is not based on religious dogma; people may claim "it is about the children", but same sex couples have children, and those children should be entitled to the same protections enjoyed by the children of married heterosexual couples. People claim they object because same sex couples cannot have children by "natural means"; well, neither can infertile couples and elderly couples.
Are we going to require fertility tests and a declaration of intention to have children before we grant marriage licenses? If not, then the "natural means of conception" test for same sex marriage is irrelevant.
St. Martin takes me to task for delineating some of the practical benefits of legalizing same sex marriage, but, the practical benefits are just the beginning. Marriage is the gold standard for committed, loving relationships, it is the ultimate expression of lifelong support and devotion despite any hardships that may occur; marriage is first and foremost a declaration before friends and family, recognized by the state, that two people will stand by each other and care for each other through all the vagaries of life.
I think, for example, of my cousin Lee in New York, who was finally able to marry his partner of nearly 20 years; I think of the looks on their faces as Lee and Dan publicly declared their love for each other, and I wonder why that shining moment of love and devotion, surrounded by friends and family and recognized by the state, should be denied same sex couples here in Minnesota. Why should I, a 62-year-old widow, have the right to marry my partner, but not same sex couples who share the same love for and commitment to each other that my partner and I share?
In short, St. Martin asks, 'what ultimate, fixed principles does one invoke when one claims that some course of action, some law, or some social or political innovation -- a revolutionary, substantive innovation especially -- is the "right" law, the "right" thing to do?' Here is the answer, Mr. St. Martin, from Matthew 7:12:
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." I would add that this is a law that transcends and precedes all religious beliefs and mores; it is the very glue holding civilization together.
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.