Hundreds rally for same-sex marriage
ST. PAUL -- Many of the hundreds who rallied Thursday to support legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota said they think it can happen this year.
"We have come this far and are this close," Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, told those gathered outside the state Capitol building in the sleet. Dibble, who is gay, said he believes the state can and should approve the bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
"It is time for our government to stop denying some Minnesotans the freedom to marry the person they love simply because of who they are," he said.
Bills legalizing same-sex marriage, including Dibble's, have made their way through committees and are waiting to come before the full House and Senate.
Speakers at the rally encouraged attendees to push lawmakers to support the change.
Some opponents say the bill will infringe on religious rights.
"If marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations -- regardless of deeply held beliefs -- will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations," a group of religious leaders wrote in a letter to lawmakers and the governor.
Gov. Mark Dayton said all people have a right to be married. He said the effort to offer a compromise in civil unions is not the same.
"People don't want to be 'civil unioned,'" Dayton said told the crowd Thursday. "They want to be married."
The gay marriage issue's two sides are engaged in smaller versions of last year's campaign leading up to a constitutional amendment vote.
During during the weekend, anti-gay marriage Minnesotans are taking a road trip in a recreational vehicle scheduled to make a half-dozen stops to rally fellow opponents.
The new campaign looks a bit like the one last year before voters opted not to put a same-sex marriage ban into the state Constitution.
With state budget bills due to pass the full House and Senate by the end of April, early May attention will turn to policy issues like gay marriage for many lawmakers while others negotiate budgets.
Democratic legislative leaders say they are optimistic the bill will pass.
Opponents also voice optimism as they travel greater Minnesota, where even many Democrats oppose gay marriage.
"We could not be any more excited to hit the road and meet fellow supporters of traditional marriage in Greater Minnesota," said Crystal Crocker, Minnesota for Marriage's grassroots director. "With the metro area and gay marriage lobbyists trying to force gay marriage on the majority of Minnesotans who want our state's marriage law left as it is, we are ready to help Minnesotans around the state connect with their legislators in St. Paul."
The chief pro-gay marriage proponent in the House, Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minn., said she expects the bill to pass. "We're very, very close."
Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, proposes to drop the word "marriage" from state law and replace it with "civil union." Many gay marriage supporters and opponents do not like the idea, which Kelly considers a compromise.