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Minnesota Republicans vote to put gay marriage ban on ballot

The GOP-led Minnesota House voted late Saturday night on May 21 for a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to forbid marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples by defining “marriage” as only between a man and a woman.

After nearly six hours of emotional debate, mostly from opponents of the ban, the House voted 70-62 to approve putting the proposal on the statewide ballot next year for voters to decide. Four Republicans joined all but two Democrats in voting against it.

Minnesota state law already prohibits gay marriage, but supporters of the proposed amendment said it was necessary to prevent judges or future lawmakers from legalizing it. Critics said the plan is divisive and would put discrimination into the constitution. Democrats, who previously controlled the Minnesota House, had killed prior attempts to put the measure on the ballot.

Such proposals invariably succeed at the polls, bolstered by expensive advertising campaigns financed by right-wing Christian groups and corporate interests. These campaigns typically spend millions of dollars to convince voters that same-sex marriage is a ploy to indoctrinate school children into a nefarious “homosexual agenda.”

During the house debate, out Rep. Karen Clark (pictured), a Minneapolis Democrat, described her 22-year committed relationship with her partner and said they’d considered getting married in Iowa, where gay marriage is legal, so her ailing father could see her marry.

“Please don't make me go off to Iowa,” she told colleagues before the vote. “I was raised in Minnesota. I’m a child of Minnesota.”

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has no power to block the question, which had previously been approved by the state’s senate, from the ballot. But he said before the vote Saturday that he would fight its passage. Dayton called the amendment, which the Senate approved last week, “un-Minnesotan.”

Republican Rep. John Kriesel described how losing his legs in Iraq began a personal transformation of his views on the issue. He said he would have supported the amendment five years ago, but has since realized that the country for which he fought should not deny the right of two people who love each other to marry.

“I’m pleading with you to vote no,” said Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove. “I’m begging you.”

Ban opponents were in the majority among those who stayed late to watch the debate on the second floor of the Capitol, where televisions were broadcasting a live feed. They could be heard from inside the House chamber singing hymns and occasionally cheering during pivotal moments of some lawmakers’ speeches.

The debate had been postponed Friday after an anti-gay pastor who lobbies to criminalize homosexuality delivered a controversial prayer on the House floor that prompted Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers to apologize.


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