Amendment to ban same-sex marriage moves closer to 2012 ballot

A House panel gave approval to proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in Minnesota Monday. It was the second time in less than a week that legislators moved the measure toward the 2012 ballot.

Debate over the measure featured impassioned testimony from both sides. Dale Carpenter, a constitutional law professor at the University of Minnesota, said banning same-sex marriage would ignite a political firestorm.

"You will be unleashing the furies, dividing family members, friends, legislators, co-workers and citizens," Carpenter said. "Some supporters of this amendment have promised to spend millions of dollars to ignite a new round in the culture war, fanning a spark into a flame that will spread across Minnesota. We shouldn't be starting fires in Minnesota. We should be putting them out together."

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, focused on the religious dimension of the debate. He wondered if supporters of the ban believed sexuality was an aspect of God's creation.

"Just ask yourself, not now in the glare of the Capitol and caucuses and interest groups, but ask yourself if it is true that sexual orientation is innate, God given. Then what does it mean to the moral force of your argument?" Simon said.

Other opponents of the ban said that the amendment would deny gays and lesbians the benefits of stable, monogamous relationships that marriage provides heterosexual families.

Supporters of the ban said that it wasn't a matter of religious belief, but that Minnesotans wanted the opportunity to vote directly on the subject. A Senate panel approved the measure on Friday.

Pastor Sergio Choy of Ministerio Maranatha Church in Bloomington, told lawmakers the state could not defy natural order and said that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The House Civil Law Committee passed the measure 10 to 7 on a party line vote.

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