ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — An proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage moved closer to getting on Minnesota’s 2012 ballot Monday, clearing a Republican-led House panel after its first Senate committee approval last week.
If both chambers approve the proposal, voters would be asked next year whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage solely as union of one man and one woman.
The amendment’s prospects have improved this year after last year’s elections gave Republicans full control of the Legislature for the first time in nearly four decades. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the amendment but doesn’t have the power to block it.
The 10-7 party-line vote by the House Civil Law Committee seemed almost preordained, with the panel’s Republicans voting yes and Democrats no. Minnesota law already prohibits gay marriage and prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. But Rep. Steve Gottwalt, the bill’s sponsor, said he wants voters to be the ones to define marriage in Minnesota, not lawmakers or judges.
“It is not about hate, it is not about discrimination, it is about defining in Minnesota’s constitution the definition of marriage,” said Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud.
The amendment’s opponents predicted it would unleash a divisive political campaign that could tear apart families and communities.
“How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether God actually wants them around?” said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, drawing applause and shushing from panel chairman Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake.
Religious leaders of various backgrounds testified on both sides of the issue about the importance of families.
Pastor Sergio Choy of Bloomington’s Ministerio Maranatha Church spoke in favor of traditional marriage, adding that redefining the institution to include same-sex unions would be comparable to trying to make water out of hydrogen or oxygen alone.
“It is one mother and one father, one man and one woman who make up the foundation of the family,” Choy told lawmakers.
Gay-rights supporters warned legislators they risked overstepping their role and going against the tide of history as acceptance of gay relationships increases.
“This is not the religious law committee — this is the civil law committee,” said David Cummer, an elder at Grace Trinity Community Church in Minneapolis. “You guys have not been elected to the College of Cardinals. You are not members of the state church of Minnesota.”
The bill now heads to the Ways and Means Committee, its last stop before reaching the full House. The Senate version will go before a rules panel before reaching the floor.
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