Reporting Pat Kessler
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP/WCCO) – Minnesota House and Senate lawmakers have given crucial victories to supporters of same-sex marriage.
The House Civil Law Committee passed a bill to legalize gay marriage Tuesday night on a 10-7 party-line vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill earlier Tuesday.
It was the first time state legislative committees have backed marriage rights for gay couples. The bills now head to the floor, where a final vote is not expected until much later in session.
The Democratic-led Legislature is pressing ahead with the marriage bill after voters defeated a constitutional amendment last November that would have fortified an existing ban on same-sex marriage. Gov. Mark Dayton says he will sign the bill if it reaches him, which would make Minnesota the ninth state to legalize gay marriage.
But the fight is far from over.
Opponents say the process is moving too fast and the views of the whole state aren’t being taken into account. Supporters say now is the time to act.
“Fundamentally, what people are talking about is love,” DFL Rep. Michael Paymar said. “And why aren’t we advocating that? Why aren’t we embracing that? We have the opportunity to do that today.”
Republican Rep. Peggy Scott responded.
“We have to take this bill very carefully,” Scott said. “We have an entire state, much of which doesn’t feel the same way as maybe some of the people around this table.”
Tuesday night’s results came after a day of emotional hearings in the Senate, and the House.
Same sex couples asked for legal recognition of their marriages, which they said were guaranteed in the Constitution, but not granted in law.
Opponents called it a bill with unknown consequences, predicting gay lifestyles will be taught in schools, reading from the Bible would be a crime and businesses could be charged with hate crimes for refusing to serve gay customers.
Randi Reitan, of Eden Prairie, testified about watching some of their children marry while their other children were denied the same rights.
“We love Jake so very much,” she said. “We come today as a family, with dreams, that one day soon Minnesota will grant him the freedom to marry.”
Opponents said it changes the role of mothers and fathers. One 11-year-old dramatically asked lawmakers to choose.
“Which parent do I not need? My mom or my dad?” Grace Evans asked to no answer. “I’ll ask again, which parent do I not need? My mom or my dad?”
One senator, a pastor, said God has jurisdiction, not the legislature.
“I don’t want to redefine, I don’t think we actually can redefine marriage. We can do it in these laws, but God is the only one to define marriage,” said Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville.
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