Minn. lawmakers unveil bill that would legalize gay marriage

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In a widely anticipated unveiling on Wednesday, several lawmakers introduced a bill that would legalize gay marriage in Minnesota.

At a Capitol news conference, gay couples held their young children, which was meant to showcase that family diversity exists already in Minnesota, the Associated Press noted.

“This is a day that Minnesotans should be very proud of," said Sen. Scott Dibble, a Minneapolis Democrat and a chief sponsor of the bill.

Meanwhile, opponents of gay marriage held their own gathering to denounce the legislation. The Pioneer Press reports more than a dozen Republican lawmakers joined members of the opposition groups Minnesota for Marriage and the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Sen. Dan Hall of Burnsville, who is a pastor, worries that if the bill is passed, provisions allowing a church to opt out of marrying same sex couples could be erased. Hall says he would go to jail before he would preside over a same sex wedding.

Wednesday's rollout officially launched Round 2 of debate in the state over same-sex marriage. Last year, state voters rejected a measure that would have cemented a ban on gay marriage in Minnesota's constitution. But gay marriage remains illegal in the state.

Gov. Mark Dayton in his state of the state address last month voiced support for gay marriage, signaling he would sign the measure. If approved, gay marriage ceremonies could legal in the state as early as August, the AP reports.

Nine states have legalized gay marriage, and many others ban it. Supporters of the legislation say the time is right to pursue it in Minnesota, and they point to a shift in attitudes nationwide about same-sex marriage. But bill foes say those backers are over-reaching, and they suggest that last year's vote on the constitutional amendment does not mean that Minnesota is ready to legalize gay marriage.

The battle over gay marriage is likely to split down party lines in the DFL-controlled Legislature, although Republican state Sen. Branden Petersen is a co-author of the legislation. Another prominent state Republican, former state auditor Pat Anderson, on Wednesday voiced her support for gay marriage.

Lobbying groups on both sides of the debate are geared up for what likely will be an expensive fight, led by the pro-bill Minnesotans United for All Families and the leading group in opposition to the legislation, Minnesota For Marriage. Minnesota For Marriage is planning a lobby day and rally March 7.

The national group National Organization for Marriage, has pledged to spend $500,000 to help defeat any Minnesota Republican who supports gay marriage.

The issue of gay marriage is transforming the political landscape, WCCO reports.

Dozens of prominent Republicans from around the nation, including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress, have signed a legal brief for the Supreme Court, arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, the New York Times reported. The brief, filed this week, will be part of the court's consideration of the issue of gay marriage next month.

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