A Minnesota House panel listened this morning to passionate public testimony for and against a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, and a vote is expected by the end of the day.
Supporters of the bill say they want to take the next step, following last fall’s defeat of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. State Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, is the chief author of the bill. Clark told members of the House Civil Law Committee that legalizing same-sex marriage is the right thing to do.
“No Minnesotan should be told that it is illegal to marry the person they love, and that includes me, and many people that you all know and love,” Clark said.
But opponents have their own interpretation of the amendment defeat. Pastor Gus Booth of Warroad told lawmakers that voters who voted against the amendment were not saying they wanted to legalize gay marriage.
“We were told that if the amendment was defeated our marriage laws wouldn’t change, and same-sex marriage would remain illegal,” Booth said. “We now know that we were sold a false bill of goods. In fact it didn’t take more than a month before the mask was pulled off and we learned that the real objective was to defeat the amendment and then to force gay marriage on all Minnesotans. In northern Minnesota we don’t appreciate this kind of bait and switch tactic.”
Opponents want the definition of marriage to remain as between one man and one woman. Grace Evens, age 11, said changing the law would take away something important for children.
“Since every child needs a mom and a dad to be born, I don’t think we can change that children need a mom and a dad,” Evans said. “I believe God made it that way.”
Former Republican state Rep. Lynne Osterman, a supporter of the bill, said she has long regretted her vote to put the Defense of Marriage Act into state law. She urged current lawmakers to avoid similar regret.
“Voting no today this session might seem politically expedient,” Osterman said. “But I can tell you from experience that you will have to live knowing that a no vote is not fair, it’s not respectful and it’s not equal.”
The House panel will resume its hearing and take a vote on the measure tonight. The Senate Judiciary Committee is also taking up the marriage bill this afternoon. If approved, the bills would next go to the ful House and full Senate. But DFL leaders have said floor votes won’t come until later in the session when budget bills are completed.