House, Senate panels advance same-sex marriage bills

The Civil Law committee in the Minnesota House approved legislation tonight that would legalize same sex marriage.

The 10 to 7 party-line vote, with Democrats for and Republicans against, followed a similar 5 to 3 party-line vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the day. House Republicans questioned why Democrats were spending time on the divisive issue. But Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said Republicans forced the issue when they put a constitutional amendment on the ballot last year that would have banned same-sex marriage.

“This was not an issue that Democrats running for office and Democrats wanting to take back the majority went out and raised as an issue,” Hortman said. “It was an issue raised by Republicans, put on the ballot, and now the issue is before us. I think the question has been called on equal rights.”

The results of the failed constitutional amendment last November varied by geography. Much of rural Minnesota voted for it. Rep. Peggy Scott, R- Andover, took note of those geographic differences, as well has the membership of the Civil Law Committee, which is dominated by metro area lawmakers.

“In some of these rural areas, the marriage amendment passed 60 percent or more,” Scott said. “I just don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves here in this committee, because we have a large diversity of people in our membership, and they represent people too.”

The full House and Senate will now vote on the marriage issue later this session. DFL leaders have said those votes must wait until budget bills are completed.