Fair Wisconsin cheers Minnesota marriage equality advance

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Minnesota will be the 12th state where gay couples can marry.

A statewide LGBT group working for equality in Wisconsin is congratulating Minnesotans and celebrating their marriage equality victory.

On May 13, the Minnesota Senate sent a marriage equality bill to the governor, who is expected to sign the measure into law today (May 14) at 5 p.m.

Same-sex couples in that state can begin marrying on Aug. 1.

In a statement released later on May 13, Fair Wisconsin executive director Katie Belanger congratulated Minnesotans United for all Families, OutFront Minnesota, Project 515 and other groups that campaigned to pass the bill and make Minnesota the 12th state in the nation – and only the second in the Midwest – to legalize same-sex marriage.

Illinois is working to become the 13th. The state Senate has passed a bill and the governor has committed to signing it if it passes the House, which is expected sometime this month.

Wisconsin, Belanger said, "will remain one of the last of its Midwestern neighbors without marriage equality for committed gay and lesbian couples, leaving many wondering what’s next for Wisconsin."

She continued, "Wisconsin is one of many states with a constitutional amendment on the books that bans both full marriage equality and civil unions. In order to achieve marriage equality in Wisconsin, we would need to repeal this amendment first. This would require two consecutive legislative sessions to pass identical bills repealing the amendment and placing the question back on the ballot. The residents of Wisconsin would then vote on a referendum to change the constitution and repeal the previous amendment that was adopted in 2006."

Wisconsin then would have to change an existing state law that defines marriage as "between 2 equal persons, a husband and wife."

Belanger said, "After repealing the constitutional amendment, this law would also need to be changed by the Legislature, to change that definition and to extend marriage equality to all people."

Still, the activist said marriage equality will happen in Wisconsin: "It’s a question of 'when,' not 'if.' The tide is turning in Wisconsin and public opinion is changing. From U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin's victory in a statewide election in which her sexual orientation was largely a non-issue, to the numerous local victories in communities across the state – Appleton to Eau Claire, Janesville to Kenosha, Manitowoc to Racine, each passing domestic partner benefits for city workers –with more to come."