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Minnesota Marriage Equality Bill Introduced, Battle Brewing

Marriage Equality

Marriage Equality (Photo credit: lez get real)

Minnesota lawmakers have gathered together to announce the introduction of legislation to make same-sex marriage legal in the state. The battle over marriage equality pits the usual foes against each other with those on one side pointing out that the children of same-sex couples grow up healthy, and that being openly lesbian or gay and being accepted also means being healthy.

On the other side are those who claim that homosexuality is an abomination, that marriage equality will hurt the family, that marriage equality will destroy religious liberty, and that homosexuality is an “unscientific lie” and “an unhealthy sexual addiction”. Neither of which is true or accurate, and have been proven to be incorrect time and time again.

Both sides are expecting a glut of money to flood into the state over the issue, but the issue may be decided half a continent away in a swampy city known as Washington DC where the United States Supreme Court will be hearing arguments about the constitutionality of Prop 8 in California and the Defense of Marriage Act. Should both or even one go down, it could have lasting ramifications for the state of marriage equality in the nation.

Among the supporters for the bill was Paul Malchert and his partner James Zimmerman. The two have a three-year-old son, and Melchert, a pediatrician, noted that studies have shown over and over again that “children raised by same-gender parents fair equally in all areas of emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment” as those from opposite-sex couples, and that “It’s clear that children’s optimal development is influenced more so by the nature of their relationships rather than the particular form that it takes.”

Many anti-gay groups have tended to use studies that show that single-parent households are detrimental to a child, but refuse to use actual comparisons between same-sex parented households and opposite-sex parented households.

Democratic-Farm-Labor Representative Karen Clark, the bill’s sponsor, stated that “The journey has been long. It’s been hard-fought.” The move to marriage equality comes after the stinging defeat of a marriage inequality bill at the ballot box last year. Clark also said “Minnesotans spoke so loudly during this last election refusing to adopt that proposed constitutional amendment. It was a very clear statement, and I think we’re now ready to take the next step, and it means everything to our families.”

Speaking honestly, DFL Senator Scott Dibble noted that he was not sure if they would have enough votes to pass the bill, but did say that “We are affirming the things we value and cherish the most in our lives. Changing nothing, redefining nothing. Affirming what we already know to be true and good.” Dibble also made it clear that the bill has protections to prevent religious institutions from having to have to perform same-sex marriages.

DFL Representative Steven Simon also stated that “This bill, because it only allows a joyous occasion to occur in the lives of so many people that we know, won’t impact anyone’s faith tradition, anyone’s closely held personal or religious beliefs. In fact … you’ll see that this bill has very strong, very aggressive – and to many people, very important and comforting – religious protections.”

It is expected that there will be some DFL opposition while some GOP will support the bill because of the religious protections. Senator Branden Peterson, the first Republican legislator to back the measure, stated later that “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation.”

To date, the DFL leadership has been less than enthused by the move to introduce this legislation. Both Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Paul Thissen have signaled their personal support for marriage equality, but they have said that the bill will not be considered until after significant progress has been made on the state budget.

Opponents are pretty much already angry over this move calling it “overreach”. Senator Paul Gazelka tried to point out that citizens, charities and businesses in other states have suffered because of marriage equality in other states without noting that those hurt by marriage equality were not hurt by marriage equality. In fact, they were hurt when they acted in a bigoted manner and ran afoul of the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Senator Dan Hall, who is also a member of the clergy, is terrified that he would have to be forced to perform same-sex marriages stating that “I personally will go to jail before I ever perform a marriage to a homosexual.” To date, in the nine states and the District of Columbia where marriage equality is legal, not a single member of the clergy has been arrested or thrown into jail for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.

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