ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — A Minnesota Senate committee has passed a bill that would let voters next year decide whether to ban gay marriage in Minnesota’s constitution.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill 8-4 Friday with all Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. The vote came after two hours of testimony and an hour-long debate between senators.
The hearing drew tight security, long lines and an overflow crowd that booed and cheered.
Supporters say they are framing the issue as not whether to ban gay marriage, but only whether to let Minnesota voters decide.
“Our goal is preventing a small group of politicians or even a smaller group of judges to make that decision,” said the bill’s author, Senator Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove).
Both sides brought religious leaders quoting the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran for and against gay marriage.
And the father of a gay Minnesota soldier killed in Afghanistan pleading for what he called “dignity” for his son.
“I am at a loss for words how to appeal to your humanity,” said Jeff Wilfarht of Rosemount , whose son, Andrew, was killed in February by an explosive device while on patrol. “I’m at a loss for words as to how to open your hearts to maybe — just maybe — same sex unions will not ruin this country.”
Before the vote, there were unusually somber comments, including some senators who called it discrimination.
“Those of you who claim to be religious and good Christians,” said Sen. Barb Goodwin, (DFL-Columbia Heights), “I think you really need to take a look at what you are doing here.”
However, others said marriage is a privilege of democracy.
“It’s not a right. It’s a privilege,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, (R-Lakeville), “and we should allow the people to decide how that privilege is going to be granted.”
Gay marriage is already illegal in Minnesota law, but the amendment would give voters the choice of locking it into the state constitution. Similar bills died in the state Senate numerous times in past years, but Republicans, newly in charge of the Legislature, are making a new push.
Democrats argued the bill reflects a narrow religious agenda that doesn’t belong in the state Constitution and that a months-long, divisive debate will distract from more important issues.
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Here are some of the testimonials offered during Friday’s hearing:
“Nationally, there are between 8 and 10 million children raised in gay and lesbian partnered households,” said marriage amendment opponent Dr. Paul Malchert, who runs a clinic in Minneapolis.
“The people of Minnesota are entitled to say whether they want marriage to remain as it is or whether they want to take their chances with marriage being redefined by activist judges,” said marriage amendment supporter Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, which is a project of the National Organization for Marriage.
“He was bagged and carried from the field by his fellow soldiers, and I know for a fact his sexuality did not matter one whip to them,” said marriage amendment opponent Jeff Wilfahrt, whose son Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt was killed by an IED explosion in Afghanistan on Feb. 27. Cpl. Wilfahrt was gay.
“It is very clear from scripture that the clinging of humans is to be male and female and for the purpose of becoming one flesh through their children,” said marriage amendment supporter St. Paul Rabbi Moshe Feller.
Audio From Jeff Wilfahrt Testimony
Audio From Bishop John Quinn Testimony