Minnesotans will vote on gay marriage rights

Sun. May 22, 2011 6:14 AM by GoPride.com News Staff

St. Paul, MN - Lawmakers in Minnesota late Saturday approved putting a Republican-led state constitutional amendment to ban gay on the ballot in November 2012.

After a five hour debate, the final vote was 70-62. Support was heavily decided among party lines with only four Republicans voting no, two Democrats voted yes.

"Tonight is a really solemn occasion," Rep. Steve Simon (D-Minneapolis) said minutes before the chamber convened. "This is a big, big deal."

Same-sex marriage is already against the law in Minnesota, but supporters of the amendment said that's not strong enough to keep courts from deciding the issue.

"I do not believe it is up to judges or even this body, but it should be up to Minnesotans," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud).

During the often personal testimony, opponents said the amendment is discriminatory and wrong.

"If you think there is a tiny bit of discrimination in this amendment, I beg you, I ask you, I implore you to vote no." Rep. John Ward (D-Brainerd).

Rep. Jeff Hayden (D-Minneapolis) told members that his interracial marriage would have been outlawed years ago in many states.

Tensions boiled early Friday morning and the vote was in question after House Republicans invited anti-gay preacher Bradlee Dean to give the House opening prayer.

Dressed in a track suit, Dean gave an inflammatory prayer that immediately ignited controversy. The unconventional pastor, who advocates jailing gays, suggested during his prayer that President Barack Obama is not a Christian.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers apologized for the prayer.

Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, strongly opposes the constitutional amendment, but has no power to stop lawmakers from putting an amendment on the ballot.

Five U.S. states allow same-sex marriage, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia.

Twenty-nine states have adopted constitutional amendments restricting marriage as between a man and a woman, and 12 other states have passed laws to that effect, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Friday's vote follows a new Gallup Poll that shows a majority of American's believe gay marriage should be legalized. The survey showed gains from Democrats and independents with no change in support among Republicans.