ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Democratic state senator who holds what many have seen as a swing vote on Minnesota’s gay marriage bill said Tuesday that he will vote to legalize it.
Sen. Kent Eken represents a northwestern Minnesota district where 53 percent of voters backed last fall’s failed bid to outlaw same-sex marriage. He said he decided to support the current gay marriage bill after hearing from many constituents. He said that includes both straight and gay couples who want legal same-sex marriage rights, and many opponents who think it’s just a matter of time anyway.
“People are just becoming more accepting of it,” Eken said. “Even among many who are against it, there’s a feeling that it’s inevitable, that it’s going to happen.”
Eken, an educator and married father of four from Twin Valley, represents a district that includes Moorhead and small rural communities near the North Dakota border. He said his constituents are more concerned about schools, roads and bridges, and nursing homes and hospitals than they are worried about legal gay marriage.
Eken was seen as a swing vote because of the makeup of his district and because a few weeks ago, he was one of four Democrats who sided with Senate Republicans in a failed attempt to block the gay marriage bill. Eken said he was still undecided at the time and only voted the way he did because he wanted the Legislature to focus on the state budget before gay marriage.
Minnesota lawmakers could vote soon on a bill to make gay marriage legal starting Aug. 1. The first vote would likely come in the state House.
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