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Home / News / Senate, House committees pass bill to legalize gay marriage
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a 5-3 party-line vote after nearly three hours of discussion on Tuesday. The hearings attracted families, couples, religious leaders, children and business executives from around the state to testify for or against the bill. The bill is now ready for a likely late-session vote on the floor of the upper chamber.

Senate, House committees pass bill to legalize gay marriage

DFL Sen. Scott Dibble

Democratic lawmakers have moved a bill to legalize gay marriage through the committee process and will now prepare for a likely late-session floor vote in both chambers.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a 5-3 party-line vote after nearly three hours of discussion on Tuesday. The House Civil Law Committee passed the bill in the evening on a 10-7 vote that also fell along party lines. The hearings attracted families, couples, religious leaders, children and business executives from around the state to testify for or against the bill.  The bills have no more stops before they head for a full floor vote.

“In Minnesota it should not be illegal to marry the person you love,” said DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, an openly gay senator from Minneapolis and sponsor of the bill. “Freedom isn’t just for some of us, it’s for all of us.”

Lawmakers in St. Paul have been debating gay marriage for more than a decade. Two years ago, Republican lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. That amendment failed by 5 percent of the vote last fall, and some say now is the time to legalize gay marriage in the state. Others says Democrats — who now control state government — should be focusing on the state budget instead of social issues.

There was little anticipation in the proceedings of the DFL-led committees. DFL Sen. Barb Goodwin expressed hesitation about the timing of the bill ahead of the committee hearing, but when it came time to vote, she said she fully supports gay marriage. “My concern is that we need to make sure that, when this goes on the floor, we have enough votes to pass it,” Goodwin said. “I don’t want to see it fail.” DFL Rep. Melissa Hortman, a co-sponsor of the bill, acknowledged the political risks for Democrats to vote for gay marriage this session. “We do this at our peril,” she said.

Arguments for and against the bill overlapped in the two committees, and supporters of the bill outnumbered opponents at the testifying table.  DFL Rep. Karen Clark, the bill’s sponsor in the chamber, produced a photo of her parents protesting for gay rights in 1993. “No one should be told you can’t marry the person you love, including me,” said Clark, who is also openly gay.

Jason Reitan and his family said they hope he can one day get married like his siblings; Carlson Cos. chair Marylin Carlson Nelson said discriminating against same-sex couples hurts business recruitment; former Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner said public policy needs to catch up with “public attitudes” on same-sex marriages.

Former Republican state Rep. Lynne Osterman said she regrets her “politically expedient” vote in favor of a strengthening the state’s anti-gay marriage laws nearly a decade ago. “Voting no today, this session, might seem politically expedient, but I’m telling you today that you will have to live knowing that a no vote is not fair,” said Osterman. “I’m imploring you, please get this right.”

Opponents argued that legalizing same-sex marriage would strip the definitions of “mother” and “father” from state law. “‘Mother’ and ‘father’ aren’t gender-neutral words. That’s fiction,” Katherine Kersten, a senior fellow with the Center for the American Experiment, said in the Senate hearing. “All Minnesotans have a mother and a father, female and male, respectively. Our state’s legislators may view themselves as powerful, but they can’t repeal this fact of human biology.”

Grace Evans, 11 told the House committee that every child should have an opportunity to have a mother and a father. “Which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?” Evans asked the committee twice, leaving long pauses in between.

Rev. Gus Booth of Warroad said the failure of the constitutional amendment was not a mandate to pass gay marriage. He described it as a “bait and switch” tactic that only benefits Minnesotans from the metro area who voted against the amendment. “Before the election we were told we could vote against the marriage amendment and nothing would change,” Booth said. “We were told that if the amendment was defeated our marriage laws wouldn’t change and same-sex marriage would remain illegal. We now know that we were sold a false bill of goods.”

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9 comments

  1. I will not stay living in a state that puts Gay marriage in the front of protect Minnesota for better background checks and to ban assault rifles and in the front of other issues like our budget. I have lived here in Minnesota all my life but I will not live in a state that passes legal Gay marriage nor do I want my grand-children growing up in schools that will teach them about it! We all will live in North Carolina where they were smart enough to add it into their constitution. Thank-you

  2. Good luck living in the US then mary davis. Our country is based on freedom for ALL not some and ignorance like yours is outdated and not needed!!!

  3. Zambanini4Equality

    @Mary Davis – Mississippi awaits you! It has a special place in its heart for people just like you who want go back to “better times” when black people and LGBT people were denied equal rights under the law. Meanwhile Minnesota moves forward and isn’t going back.

  4. Mary Davis, I don’t think you’re going leave Minnesota anytime soon unless you were arty planning to do so. And what do you think someone’s going to try to teach her grandkids? Did they have to marry someone of the same-sex even though they’re straight. That’s ridiculous. I think you’re saying “I don’t want them to teach my kids that it happens because that will be teaching them that it’s okay and I think it’s disgusting” why don’t you come out and say that?

  5. First, it is not “gay marriage”. It is “marriage”, the same word and the same legal rights and protections that straight couples get when they get married. Gay couples will just get the same rights and protections.

    Second, “equal protection” is guaranteed to all person by the Constitution. Gay people have a constitutional right to equal protection. There is a Supreme Court case, with oral arguments this month, to decide if gay people also have an equal right to get married.

    If you don’t want to live in a place where gay people have equal rights, you are quickly running out of places to live. The entire United States will soon be one of those places. You might have to move to Egypt, or Iran.

  6. Minnesotans overwhelmingly in favor of Traditional marriage. What is the point of having a vote if the vote is nullified and overturned by obstinate legislators?
    There will be repercussions for those who decide to overturn the people’s vote.

  7. Equality means everyone Mary Davis….. go ahead, move to North Carolina, but watch out for the rednecks.

  8. Thank you Deena for speaking the truth.
    In a recent Star Tribune poll, some 53 percent of Minnesotans said they would not support legalization of same-sex marriage. Only 38 percent said the state should do so.

    i am proud of Grace Evans, 11, told the House committee that every child should have an opportunity to have a mother and a father. “Which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?” Evans asked the committee twice, leaving long pauses in between.

    Take a look at Canada at what has happened since legalizing same-sex marriage and how religious freedoms and freedom of speech have been severely limited. They are forced to teach at all levels of education a genderless marriage. Redefining marriage doesn’t lead to a stable society; but to more brokenness. Do we want that here America? We need to wake up and return to God with all our hearts. God is a merciful God, but He is also just. He does not bless what He does not ordain. This is not a civil rights issue; its a moral and spiritual issue. It’s biology; a mother and a father make a child; a child needs a mother and a father. It’s God’s ordained way; anything less is a slap in His face. Lord, have mercy.

  9. Most people under the age of 40 don’t respond to newspaper polls, so any such poll
    Is terribly skewed to reflect older demographics…people who are far likelier to be against gay marriage.

    You are all free to believe that your God hates gay people and that we don’t deserve the same rights you have. But you don’t have the right to impose your foolishness on us via the law anymore than racists have the right to keep people of color from marrying or voting or any such thing.

    Feel free to be hateful and ignorant, folks: In America we tolerate even people like you and I will fight for your right to have your opinion.

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