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The debate over gay marriage was back at the Capitol on Monday afternoon. A trio of bills relating to same-sex unions were heard before the House's Civil Justice committee.

Gay marriage bills debated in House committee

Rep. Phyllis Kahn

Rep. Phyllis Kahn

The debate over gay marriage was back at the Capitol on Monday afternoon. A trio of bills relating to same-sex unions were heard before the House’s Civil Justice committee.

A proposal introduced by Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow two consenting adults to enter into  “civil union contracts,” regardless of their gender. Another bill, put forth by Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states as legally valid in Minnesota.

But the most far-reaching legislation would legalize gay marriage by removing gender-based terminology in existing state statute. The measure was introduced by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, more than a year ago and has 22 other Democratic co-sponsors. Kahn noted in advocating for the bill that she’s probably been married longer than any other current legislator at the Capitol.

“I just want to personally state that I think allowing other people to get married poses absolutely no threat to my marriage,”Kahn told the committee. “The legislative session is probably a little more damaging.”

Chris and Ryan Dolan were the first witnesses to testify in support of gay marriage. The couple, who got married in Toronto, brought along their adopted infant daughter, Olivia, to the hearing. Chris Dolan pointed out that the couple is penalized financially because gay marriage is outlawed in Minnesota, including by having to pay higher costs for health and life insurance policies.

“I can’t state this any clearer: the failure of this state to recognize our marriage is financially hurting our marriage” said Chris, an attorney at Faegre & Benson. “Why is the state of Minnesota making it more difficult for us to provide OIivia with a stable home?”

Dale Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, prefaced his testimony by stating that he’s a lifelong conservative Republican. He argued that marriage is a powerful legal institution that encourages healthy, monogamous relationships — whether gay or straight.

“There have been no negative effects on heterosexual families or on children raised in those families,” Carpenter testified of the increasing prevalence of gay marriage. “No slippery slope to polygamy or anything else.”

But opponents of same-sex unions also had their say. Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, argued that gay marriage would damage society in eight specific ways. Among the harmful effects, according to Collett: retaliation against individuals who oppose homosexual unions and elimination of tax-exempt status for churches that fail to sanction such marriages.

“Make no mistake, marriage as a civil institution, as a legal institution, is grounded not merely in religion, but in the biological reality that sex makes children and children need a mom and a dad,” she said.

Barb Davis White, an African American who is running for Congress in the 5th Congressional District, argued that gay sex is physically dangerous and that children need both a mother and father in their lives.

Rosa Parks didn’t move to the front of the bus to support sodomy,” she said.

No votes were taken on the bills and no additional hearings are scheduled.


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