Same-sex marriage bill announced

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, is expected to formally introduce the bill Thursday.

Paul Melchert (left), a pediatrician, speaks to the media about his support of the legalization of gay marriage while accompanied with his partner James Zimmerman (far right), and their two sons, Emmett (left), and Gabriel Melchert-Zimmerman (right). Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark, chief sponsors of the bill to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota, held a press conference introducing their bill Wednesday at the Capitol.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Paul Melchert (left), a pediatrician, speaks to the media about his support of the legalization of gay marriage while accompanied with his partner James Zimmerman (far right), and their two sons, Emmett (left), and Gabriel Melchert-Zimmerman (right). Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark, chief sponsors of the bill to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota, held a press conference introducing their bill Wednesday at the Capitol.

Jessica Lee

 

A historical bill to legalize same-sex marriages in Minnesota was announced Wednesday morning at a packed news conference in St. Paul.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, presented the proposal as lawmakers, clergy, children and other supporters crowded the Capitol’s meeting room.

He said the challenge over the coming weeks will be discussing with lawmakers who oppose the legislation about “why marriage matters.”

“We’re introducing this bill in the hopes that … legislators will be touched by their constituents who reach out and have this conversation,” said Dibble, the bill’s author.

The language in the bill gives religious leaders the option to wed same-sex marriages if they choose to, but they aren’t required to, he said.

Set to be formally introduced for the Legislature on Thursday, the same-sex marriage legislation is getting support from both sides of the party line.

Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover is the first Republican lawmaker to go against his party’s views and support the legislation — a trend that others are expected to follow.

Some DFL legislators from rural areas are expected to oppose same-sex marriage despite their party’s history of backing it.

Autumn Leva, spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, which campaigned to pass the amendment that would’ve constitutionally banned same-sex marriage last fall, said the organization has transitioned to lobbying against the same-sex marriage bill.

She said it’s not surprised the Legislature is proposing this bill and that’s why they pushed so hard last fall for the passing of the marriage amendment which would’ve prohibited the proposal.

In the fall, 52.5 percent of Minnesotans voted down or didn’t answer the ballot question on same-sex marriage, both being marked as a “no” vote.

People statewide have expressed confusion and concern, Leva said.

“I think legislators are becoming aware that a vote against a constitutional amendment is not the same as a vote for legalizing gay marriage,” she said.

Leva said the organization will speak with legislators as the session moves forward to advocate against the bill.

University of Minnesota architecture senior Sunny Bang is also against passing laws to allow same-sex marriage.

“Nature tells us already that it is one man and one woman,” said Bang, vice-president of the Christian Bible Fellowship at the University.

Anastaisha Lee, an anthropology senior, supports the bill.

She is co-chair of the Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists student group, and said the group discusses same-sex marriage, as well as other gender, sex and religion topics, at the group’s meetings.

Lee said the state has waited too long to move this forward, and she sees it passing this year.

Beau Miller, a biochemistry and genetics, cell biology and development junior, said he campaigned against the marriage amendment last fall with Minnesotans United for All Families.

With the momentum for legalizing same-sex marriage picking up again this spring, Miller said he’s likely volunteer again.

He said he’s optimistic about the bill passing.

“A lot of other states have been doing so, and it’s likely that we are going to follow suit,” Miller said.

Nine other states have legalized same-sex marriage, including Minnesota’s neighbor Iowa.