Minnesota gay marriage bill introduced by bipartisan group - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Bipartisan 'Freedom to Marry' bill introduced at Minnesota Capitol

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Families and children crowd a Minnesota Capitol news conference to announce same sex marriage legislation. Photo by Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News. Families and children crowd a Minnesota Capitol news conference to announce same sex marriage legislation. Photo by Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

A bipartisan group of legislative leaders announced a bill Wednesday morning to give same-sex couples the right to get married in Minnesota.

"It would simply allow folks who so desire, who have demonstrated a lifetime of love and commitment to get married," said Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), a co-author of the bill. "We're affirming things that we all prize, love at the center of marriage."

The legislation aims to repeal Minnesota's 1997 law that banned marriage between two people of the same sex.

Co-author Sen. Branden Petersen (R-Andover), is the first Republican state legislator to publicly support gay marriage in Minnesota.  He said this bill "safeguards children, strengthens marriage and families and protects religious freedom."

Despite Minnesota voters defeating an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment in November, opponents of same sex marriage aren't backing down.

Those opponents said supporters got the wrong message from defeat of the marriage amendment, which meant voters rejected the definition of marriage as it's written in Minnesota state law, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said.

This proposed bill, however, would change Minnesota's current statutory definition of marriage from "a civil contract between a man and a woman" to "between two people."

"It is in no way a mandate from the people of Minnesota," said Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove. "The people said that they didn't want to include the definition of marriage as it's written in Minnesota state law and include it in the constitution. So there are lots of reasons to believe Minnesota's public is not ready for same-sex marriage, and nor are they ready for the Legislature to take it upon themselves to change it at this time."

To answer some critics, Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-Hopkins), said the bill comes with strong religious protections.

"This bill has very strong, very aggressive, and to many people many important and comforting religious protections," Simon said. "We aren't prohibiting anything. We aren't requiring anything. We're simply allowing people to do will come naturally to them and what so many of their brothers and sisters have had the opportunity to do for so long."

But those protections, as introduced in the current bill, aren't enough to satisfy conservatives like Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), a member of the clergy who says he will go to jail before he performs a same sex marriage.

"Once you open door, you're not going to be able to shut it," Hall said. "I'll tell you today there have been many professionals in other states that have been taken to court on this issue of not performing or not being a part of a wedding ceremony. I personally will go to jail before I will ever perform a marriage to a homosexual."

Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated he would sign a bill to legalize same sex marriage if it were to reach his desk.

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