With MPR’s Tim Pugmire
A bipartisan group of lawmakers today proposed a bill to establish civil unions for same-sex couples in Minnesota as an alternative to legalizing same-sex marriage. Four Republican members of the House held an afternoon news conference to announce the bill.
Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, was among four House Republicans who bucked their party in 2011 and voted against putting a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot to ban gay marriage . The defeat of that amendment last fall launched this session’s legislative push to legalize same-sex marriage. But Kelly said his opposition of the amendment was never intended as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.
“If you heard my message and you listened to my statement on the House floor, I was completely opposed to government intervention,” Kelly said. “Now that the conversation has changed, it would be completely hypocritical of me to make the statement that now I believe government should take the role.”
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R, Farmington, Rep. Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury and Rep. Dennis McNamara, R-Hastings, joined Kelly at the news conference. Kelly says Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, has also signed on to the bill.
The proposal was quickly criticized by DFL House leaders and backers of legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry. They say civil unions are not an alternative to marriage.
“It would classify same-sex couples as second class citizens in Minnesota,’ Jake Loesch, spokesman for Minnesotans United for All Families, said. “Everyone deserves the freedom to marry the person that they love.”
A spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, which is lobbying against the bill to legalize same-sex marriage, says the group is reserving judgment on the civil unions bill.