Minn. Senate panel approves same-sex marriage bill

Marriage rally
Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 in St. Paul, Minn., where supporters of same-sex marriage called for Minnesota lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota has received its first favorable vote.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure Tuesday afternoon on a five to three party line vote, with all Democrats in favor. The vote followed some passionate testimony on both sides of the issue.

The House Civil law Committee, which heard much of the same public testimony Tuesday morning, is expected to vote on the bill later in the day.

Supporters of the bill say they want to take the next step, following last fall's defeat of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. State Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, is the chief author of the bill. Clark told members of the House Civil Law Committee Tuesday morning that legalizing same-sex marriage is the right thing to do.

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"No Minnesotan should be told that it is illegal to marry the person they love, and that includes me, and many people that you all know and love," Clark said.

But opponents have their own interpretation of the amendment defeat. Pastor Gus Booth of Warroad told lawmakers that voters who voted against the amendment were not saying they wanted to legalize same-sex marriage.

"We were told that if the amendment was defeated our marriage laws wouldn't change, and same-sex marriage would remain illegal," Booth said. "We now know that we were sold a false bill of goods. In fact it didn't take more than a month before the mask was pulled off and we learned that the real objective was to defeat the amendment and then to force gay marriage on all Minnesotans. In northern Minnesota we don't appreciate this kind of bait and switch tactic."

Same-sex marriage
Democratic Sen. Scott Dibbles introduces his bill to legalize same-sex marriage Tuesday, March 12, 2013 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the State Capitol in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

Opponents want the definition of marriage to remain as between one man and one woman. Grace Evens, age 11, said changing the law would take away something important for children.

"Since every child needs a mom and a dad to be born, I don't think we can change that children need a mom and a dad," Evans said. "I believe God made it that way."

Former Republican state Rep. Lynne Osterman, a supporter of the bill, said she has long regretted her vote to put the Defense of Marriage Act into state law. She urged current lawmakers to avoid similar regret.

"Voting no today this session might seem politically expedient," Osterman said. "But I can tell you from experience that you will have to live knowing that a no vote is not fair, it's not respectful and it's not equal."

If the House panel approves the bill, the bills would next go to the full House and full Senate. But DFL leaders have said floor votes won't come until later in the session when budget bills are completed.