Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, appeared Thursday at a "Freedom to Marry Day" rally, describing his Marriage and Family Protection Act bill as a fairness issue.
The chief author of the same-sex marriage bill said he has a modest goal for the 2009 session.
Acknowledging the setback of California's Proposition 8 vote of last November, Marty said his bill is not going to pass this year, but he said he hopes it wins the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee after a hearing later this month.
"I think there's a lot of fear among some people, a lot of misunderstanding," he said. "And so I don't want to have a debate. I don't want an argument over gay marriage I want to have a discussion."
"How does somebody else's marriage affect your marriage in the first place? Why should the state be stepping in and telling religions what they can or cannot do?"
Marty said his bill is a matter of equality for all Minnesota families.
Under the measure, current marriage statutes would be edited to include gender-neutral language. Additional language would express the state's support for same-sex couples to marry, and also raise children.
At a State Capitol rally in support of the bill, Marty said it would take another three years to get it passed.
That's a long wait for Samantha Gillen of Minneapolis, who's raising two children with her partner Melanie. Gillen said she already feels married, but she also wants legal recognition.
"We have a wonderful amazing family, and I know that Avery and Stella are going to be faced throughout their lives with people who look at them and may treat them different because of who we are," Gillen said. "And that's not fair, because we are a united, loving family and we deserve the have the rights that everyone else has."
The Senate judiciary committee is expected to hear Marty's bill within the next few weeks.
The House companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, will be introduced next week.
Opponents of the measure say they're ready for a fight.
Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, said the same-sex marriage bill is a radical proposal that state won't accept.
"It's a fundamental issue, because when you start redefining marriage you're changing the bedrock of society, and, I think, undermining it," Prichard said. "I think the breakdown of the family is the basis for a lot of our social ills and problems. And when you define it out of existence, I think it's only going to exacerbate and make the situation worse."
Prichard said the push for a same-sex marriage bill will rekindle support for a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. But he says a new version of the bill that failed to pass in previous sessions has not yet been introduced this session.