Republican Rep. Tim Kelly wants to eliminate the word “marriage” from the state’s lawbooks.
Kelly is revamping his proposal to allow civil unions in the state, which previously inserted “civil unions” alongside any instance of the word “marriage” in state statute. The bill got a cold reception from gay marriage advocates earlier this month, but his new bill would eliminate “marriage” from lawbooks and enshrine “civil unions” in its place.
“The arguments [from critics] have been that I’ve created a separate but equal definition,” Kelly said. “Over the last week and a half, that has been the only real kickback. People said, ‘We understand what you are trying to do, but what you haven’t done is you don’t call it the same thing.’ By removing marriage from statute we have the same rights for everyone.”
Kelly said he hopes the new bill will get more support from legislators on both sides of the aisle, and he deflected criticisms that his proposal is intended to derail an effort to legalize gay marriage. Bills to legalize gay marriage have passed committees in both the House and Senate and are awaiting likely late-session floor votes.
“This is not effort to beat gay marriage like some suggested the last civil union bill was about, and hopefully when I bring this out, that will be very, very clear,” Kelly said. “My intention all along was to absolutely grant the rights to the people who have been discriminated against.”
Kelly was joined by Republican Reps. Pat Garofalo, Andrea Kieffer and Denny McNamara in rolling out his original bill, and Rochester DFL Rep. Kim Norton signed on as a co-sponsor. At least one Democrat is interested in Kelly’s new approach: Rep. Tim Faust, DFL-Hinckley, said he is considering supporting the proposal.
“In one way I believe that’s actually protecting marriage,” Kelly said. “Because if you remove it from statute, you get it back to its base and religious foundation, then we’ve protected everyone’s individual right to believe marriage is whatever they want it to be, and that way we can focus on the absolute individual rights of these same-sex partners.”
Kelly says his new proposal should be rolled out in the next few days. He will seek a hearing for the bill in the House Civil Law Committee.