Minnesota and marriage

Same-sex marriage returned as an issue to the Minnesota Capitol on Monday when a House committee heard from several lawmakers who have bills before the Legislature to make it easier for same-sex couples to marry here or have their marriages recognized in Minnesota. These are the first hearings ever on the subject in Minnesota.

Proponents used economic arguments for easing restrictions on same-sex marriage in the state.

“One of the things we need to do is attract high quality, high-talent employees to move here,” Rep. Ryan Winkler told the House Civil Justice Committee, advocating his bill that would require Minnesota to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. “If you have a highly-talented employee who is working in Iowa and is married there, you’re asking them to give up a civil right to move to this state.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn said Winkler’s bill will be easier to pass than hers. It would allow same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Among other things, her bill states:

The state should not interfere with the religious beliefs of its people. Just as a church or religious denomination that objects to same-sex marriage has the right to refuse to solemnize those marriages, a church or religious denomination that believes in the valueof same-sex marriage should have the right to solemnize those marriages.

Bouncing his daughter, Olivia, on his lap, Chris Dolan told the committee about why a birthmother selected him and his husband, Ryan, out of all the prospective couples.

“She said the best example of her life of a healthy relationship was a gay relative and her partner,” he said, also making an economic argument by noting that both pay higher tax rates and have to buy additional insurance because neither is entitled to Social Security spousal benefits.

“Failure of this state to recognize our marriage is financially hurting our daughter,” he said.

“Does she need a mother?” Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabasha asked.

“In the world we live in today, families come in all shapes and sizes and Olivia sees the love and support. I think we’re doing a good job,” he said.

“Our state seems to have codified one interpretation of Scripture into its laws,” said Rev. Doug Donley, pastor of University Baptist Church in Dinkytown. “It seems to be a violation of the freedom of religion.”

Dale Carpenter, professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said he’s a lifelong Republican and conservative. “Conservative support for sex-sex marriage can best be summed up by P.J. O’Rourke: ‘Gays want to get married , have children, and go to church. Next thing you know they’ll be advocating for school vouchers and be protesting HBO.'”

Carpenter said the rise of gay families has changed the debate over same-sex marriage because children do not have protections that children of heterosexual couples do. “The debate has largely been a duel of abstractions and unsupported claims,” he said. “Sap still runs from maple trees in Vermont, Massachusetts still taxes its citizens with abandon, Canadians still don’t have a national identity, and Iowa is just as boring as it was a year ago. There have been no negative effects on homosexual families are the children raised in them.”

“Marriage is a faithful, exclusive, lifelong relationship between one man and one woman,” countered Michael Becker of St. John’s Divinity College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, speaking on behalf of Catholic bishops. “Marriage between one man and one woman forms a nucleus. It forms a strong and healthy environment for children to be raised up. Marriage is a fundamental building block of our culture. Same-sex marriage contradicts the nature of marriage.”

“They feel trapped by a brain that gives them no choice but to participate in a dysfunctional way of life,” Dr. Bill Harley said of homosexuals The marriage counselor said homosexuality is a choice. “They can change that orientation if there’s a good reason to do so,” he said.

At least two other bills at the Capitol would provide for a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage but sponsors said they did not want the bills aired today, committee chairman Joe Mullery said.