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Reality Check: The GOP & Gay Marriage

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A national anti-gay marriage group has put a bounty on the heads of Minnesota Republicans.

The National Organization for Marriage says it will spend $500,000 to defeat any GOP legislator who votes to legalize gay marriage.

It’s a serious threat, but what does the record actually show?

The National Organization for Marriage posted its half million dollar threat online just a couple of days before a bill to legalize gay marriage is slated to be introduced at the Minnesota Legislature.

But here’s a fact: In the 2012 election, the vast majority of gay marriage voting legislators won.

Sen. Branden Peterson says he isn’t fazed by the warning

“It doesn’t matter whether its five million or 50 million [dollars],” he said. “They might as well spend their money somewhere else, because it’s not going to have an effect.”

The two-term lawmaker from Andover, Minn., is the first Republican to change his vote on legalizing gay marriage. And he may be part of a new, growing GOP movement.

In fact, the gay marriage debate is transforming the political landscape.

In 2001, only 35 percent of Americans supported it. But now, 48 percent of Americans do.

And for Republicans, there’s a generation gap. Only 30 percent of the overall party favors gay marriage; but 70 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 support it.

But that’s not the whole story: The Washington-based Democratic think tank Third Way says 98.5 percent of state legislators who voted for gay marriage were re-elected.

Out of 196 elections in New York and Washington state, only five pro-gay marriage lawmakers lost their seats — four in New York and one in Washington.

And in three of those elections, other factors — like corruption– might have played a bigger factor.

Peterson says he will be a co-author on the gay marriage bill, but he still has some concerns about how the law will work.

Also, he says he wants to make sure Minnesota carves out legal protection for small businesses and conscientious objectors.

Indeed, supporters of legal gay marriage say they expect more Republicans to join them. As for Peterson, he says what’s remarkable is that gay marriage is not that important to many people.

He says Minnesotans are much more worried about state spending, taxes and job creation.

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