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Gay marriage debate revisits Capitol

ST. PAUL -- Those on opposite sides of the same-sex marriage debate use the same argument: It is about families.

Both camps made their case as Minnesota lawmakers last week released a proposal that would allow gay couples to wed.

"We are affirming that thing that we all prize: Love that is the center of everything," bill author Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis said, adding the bill is "changing nothing, redefining nothing."

Opponents said marriage is about more than two people's decisions and legalizing same-sex marriage will have widespread impacts.

"When marriage is redefined ... it doesn't happen in a vacuum," Autumn Leva of Minnesota for Marriage said.

The bill was widely anticipated, especially after Minnesotans rejected a proposed constitutional amendment in November defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage still is illegal under state law.

Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, said that vote did not necessarily mean Minnesotans support gay marriage.

"Some people who voted against the amendment just didn't want it in the Constitution," he said.

Sen. Warren Limmer, who was a chief author of the proposed amendment, said in many areas of Minnesota, including those now represented by Democrats, residents voted for the amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"The end result will depend, ultimately, on DFL votes in rural Minnesota," Limmer said.

Those lawmakers generally will oppose the gay marriage bill, partially because the Legislature has more important things to do, Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, said.

"You can only bite off so much at one time," he said.

Rural lawmakers want to concentrate on issues such as the state budget, Saxhaug said, adding that there will be plenty of time to deal with gay marriage, gun control and other social issues next year.

"There is enough controversy," he said about budget discussions that revolve around issues such as increasing taxes and making budget cuts.

Legislative leaders have said that the gay marriage issue will work its way through committees, but will not be heard by the full House or Senate until the chambers approve a budget bill.

Dibble acknowledged that policy issues, such as gay marriage, could be on hold until the state budget is done. But supporters want action soon.

"Now is the time for marriage," Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Latz said.

Latz said children suffer when their parents are not allowed to marry and reap its benefits.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said marriage between one man and one woman is natural and protects children.

"There is no gay gene," he said. Legalizing same-sex marriage will have "tremendous ramifications," he said.

Opponents said legalizing same-sex marriage could infringe on those who are against it.

"There definitely is a collision between religious liberty and sexual liberty here," Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said.

Bill supporters said churches and religious organizations would not be required to perform ceremonies or allow receptions.

"This is a live-and-let-live proposal," Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, said.

Koenen said the provision does not help businesses or other organizations that might have opinions on the issue.

"How far down the road does it go then?" he asked.

Don Davis contributed to this story.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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