Republican State Senator Branden Petersen may become the first Republican to cosponsor a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the US as he prepares to sponsor a bill in Minnesota. Having such a coauthor would, as the Star Tribune put it, “be an enormous political coup for same-sex marriage advocates”. Petersen would also be the first Republican to support such a measure in Minnesota.
Petersen stated that “At this point, I am concerned about doing the right thing. I have a certain amount of peace about that, and I will let the chips fall where they may.” A year ago, Petersen was among the Republicans who pushed to ban same-sex marriage in the state. The measure failed rather strongly. Minnesota was the second state to vote down a marriage equality ban, following Arizona; however, Arizona would later approve their ban.
It is going to be a battle that will pit member against member. Some Democratic-Farm-Labor members such as State Senator LeRoy Stumpf oppose same-sex marriage. He stated that “I feel strongly in my beliefs that it is not something I would support. It’s a sacrament in our church. I’m Catholic.”
He is not alone among the DFL to have that stance, and no one inside the DFL is pressuring him over it. This does mean that there will be need for some Republicans to cross over and vote for the bill. Jake Loesch, a Republican and a spokesman for Minnesotans United for All Families, stated “Republican support is something we want to make sure we have. Republicans are weighing this issue. … As this conversation continues in the Legislature, there will be Republicans who will vote for marriage.”
Petersen is still deciding what to do about the measure. Among the things he wants guaranteed are that religious leaders who do not want to wed same-sex couples will not have to, and he wants to know that children of same-sex marriages will have the same financial certainties as the children of straight marriages during divorces.
Petersen stated “It’s only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal. I thought it was important to engage the issue now, and when we do it, do it right, and that there’s some perspective from the people I represent in that.”
However, Petersen may find that his requests are hardly going to be a problem. State Senator Scott Dibble, the chief sponsor of the bill, stated “Everything he has articulated, I see no problem with. At all.” He is also thrilled to have a GOP cosponsor saying “It’s awesome. I think it also allows a lot of space for other legislators to consider the same. . .I know there are other Republicans who are very interested in supporting same-sex marriage,” he said.
Petersen knows that the issue could hurt him politically back in his district, however, the twenty-seven year old also notes that his father-in-law has been in a same-sex relationship for just under twenty years. Petersen represents a district that narrowly supported the marriage ban last year, but he also noted that, because he is reliably Conservative on other issues, he may be able to survive a challenge to his seat.
Petersen would not be the first Republican to face such a quandry. Several Republicans have voted for same-sex marriage with some losing their seats while others retained them. Still, he is realistic about it saying “They are generally not single-issue voters. But if push came to shove and that’s the way it had to be, then I am fine with that.”
Of course, the lobbying is already on. Autumn Leva, a lobbyist for the inaccurately named Minnesota for Marriage, said that marriage equality supporters had “spent a lot of time and a lot of money telling people that the constitutional amendment was unnecessary because there was actually a statutory law defining marriage. Now we see that same group is trying to push for a change in the law, and Minnesotans are very hesitant on that. They say, ‘Wait, wait, wait. I voted no on the amendment, but I didn’t vote to change the law.’ ”
It is a touchy issue, however. Republicans not only lost the push to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota, but lost their majority in the Senate. The DFL, however, isn’t going to be pushing forward on the issue either.
Things may change after the Supreme Court rules on issues like California’s ban on same-sex marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act.