Reporting Kate Raddatz
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Minnesota could be on the verge of becoming the 12th state in the country to allow two men or two women to marry each other. On Thursday, the full Minnesota House will take up the same-sex marriage bill.
“Marriage is a simple freedom, it’s something that all Minnesotans deserve and it’s about the love the commitment the responsibility that two people share,” said Jake Loesch, communications director for Minnesotans United, the lobby group that fought last year’s unsuccessful proposed amendment to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. “There’s nothing that compares to marriage in the state of Minnesota, it’s an important institution that protects families, and it’s time this year to act in favor and protect families that you’re welcome here, we want you to be treated equally here and we’re going to make sure that you can get married here in Minnesota.”
The House debate starts at noon. Thousands of people from both sides of this issue are planning to be at the State Capitol on Thursday. Extra security officers are patrolling Minnesota’s Capitol as the House debates the highly-charged issue of legalizing gay marriage.
State lawmakers have been advised that 30 to 40 additional uniformed officers will be on hand to maintain a safe environment during debate Thursday.
Supporters of same-sex marriage believe they have enough votes to pass this bill in the House. Minnesotans United, a group in support of marriage for same-sex couples, held a Freedom to Marry vigil at Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill Church in St. Paul Wednesday night.
“Individuals, small businesses, large businesses, licensed professionals, teachers — all those folks aren’t protected under this bill. So if they stand up and say ‘I operate my business under my faith and I’m sorry I can’t offer my services to your same-sex wedding, but here let me refer you to someone else,’ they stand to be fined under the Minnesota human rights act as the bill currently stands,” said Autumn Leva. “I would say let’s not turn marriage into a system of government love licenses, let’s protect the kids, and let’s also not classify hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who have faithful beliefs that marriage is only the union of a man and a woman as discriminators under the law.”
A wording change proposed by Republican Representative David Fitzsimmons swaps in the term “civil marriage” whether couples are gay or straight. The change would protect religious organizations from being fined, punished, or stripped of special status for refusing to perform gay marriages.
If the House approves the bill it heads to the Senate for a vote Monday. Gov. Mark Dayton says he would sign the law making Minnesota the 12th state to allow gay marriage.
“Today I would just tell legislators that marriage is really important in Minnesota and it’s time that all families and all loving and committed couples have the freedom to get married here in the state they call home,” said Loesch.