Dayton pushes for same-sex marriage at Capitol rally

Gov. Dayton at rally
Gov. Mark Dayton told supporters of same-sex marrige on the Capitol mall that he supported their efforts. It was the first time in at least eight years that a governor spoke at the annual event.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton told a gay rights rally at the State Capitol Thursday that he still had hope that Minnesota's Legislature would make same sex marriage legal, despite the Republican majority.

"I'd hoped that this year would provide us with the opportunity to work with a legislative majority that would be leading Minnesota into the future with groundbreaking legislation, that would provide the right for any Minnesotan to marry legally the man or woman that he or she loves. I believe that day will come, and come soon," Dayton said.

Dayton's predecessor, Republican Tim Pawlenty, opposed making same sex unions legal.

The rally featured the parents of Army Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt killed last month in Afghanistan. His parents revealed after his death that he was gay.

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Wilfahrt's father, Jeff, told the crowd the Army had come to their house to tell them their son had been killed.

Same-sex marriage supporters
Jim Lawser (left) and Duane Bandel hold signs in support of legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota. The couple was among the crowd at OutFront Minnesota's rally at the state Capitol in St. Paul on April 14, 2011. The two have been together for 25 years and got married in Canada five years ago.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

"Let us human beings, as Americans, as Minnesotans, assume for the moment that it had been a significant other to our Andrew who had answered that door," said Wilfahrt. "Would there have been a death benefit? Would there have been a chance to go to Dover to receive his remains? Do you as human beings, as Americans and Minnesotans believe this denial of civil rights to be proper and just?"

Wilfahrt told the hundreds of people gathered in front of the Capitol that he and his wife Lori would help fight for same-sex marriage in their son's memory.

Meantime, opponents of same-sex marriage said they are pressing ahead with a campaign to put a constitutional amendment on next year's ballot. Minnesota Family Council spokesman Chuck Darrell said a poll done by a California research firm found 74 percent of Minnesotans want to put same-sex marriage to a vote.

"What's really clear is they think that people should decide through voting, rather than the state legislators deciding. It was absolutely overwhelming," said Darrell. "This has been going on for a long time, and its time for the state Legislature to give them that opportunity."

The poll was conducted by Lawrence Research, which did work for supporters of Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban approved by voters in California.

The Minnesota Family Council is trying to raise more than $4 million in support of a ban campaign.