Lawmakers to announce civil unions bill

A Republican state lawmaker will announce bipartisan legislation today to establish civil unions in Minnesota.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and other legislators will hold an afternoon news conference at the Capitol.

Kelly, who was one of four Republicans who voted in 2011 against placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage, declined to comment in advance of the news conference. But Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, the chief sponsor of the House bill to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota, was quick to criticize the effort.

“It’s a little late to be coming with something like this to deflect the momentum that’s out there to really make sure that it’s marriage equality, not a second class status that doesn’t work,” Clark said. “It just plain doesn’t work.”

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the chief Senate author of the bill to legalize sam-sex marriage, said civil unions are a separate and unequal status. He said he’s confident his bill will pass this session.

“Minnesotans are ready for this,” Dibble said.

Update: DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen issued a statement saying the civil union bill would create “a separate and unequal category for same-sex couples in our state.”

Here’s his full statement:

“The conversation that we are having both at a national level and here in Minnesota is whether or not all committed couples deserve the freedom to marry. Unfortunately, the bill announced today is an idea whose time has passed and would simply create a new separate and unequal category for same-sex couples in our state. That is not acceptable to those – like me – who support full marriage equality for all Minnesotans, and it will not have broad support in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

I am encouraged by the increasing number of state and national Republicans who are announcing their support for marriage equality, and am hopeful that more in Minnesota will carefully consider the bill already before the legislature that would provide all couples the freedom to marry.”