Big crowds and extra security are expected Thursday at the Minnesota Capitol, where House lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to legalize gay marriage. A Senate vote is expected Monday.
House members are preparing for what likely will be the most high-profile vote of the session, the culmination of several years of debate in the state and weeks of intense lobbying campaigns on both sides of the issue.
Among the lawmakers is DFL Rep. Joe Radinovich, who represents a district where 63 percent of voters are said to oppose gay marriage. Still, he plans to support the measure. "I'd rather have the voters be upset with me right now than for me to be upset with myself for the rest of my life for making the wrong decision," Radinovich told MPR.
House Speaker Paul Thissen and many other legislators say they believe that if the legislation is approved it will be considered a turning point in state history, the Star Tribune reports.
A word change in the gay marriage bill may open the door to some Republican support for the measure.
Republican Rep. David FitzSimmons of Albertville proposed an amendment that would use the phrase "civil marriage" throughout the bill. FitzSimmons tells MPR the phrase would emphasize that the bill affects only the government's recognition of marriage and that religious institutions would not be compelled to perform same-sex marriages.
Politics in Minnesota reports the change could attract the support of some Repuplican lawmakers.
The group at the forefront of the lobbying effort on behalf of the bill, Minnesotans United for All Families, supports FitzSimmons' proposal. The Associated Press reports the group's leader says he will urge support for the amendment.
House bill sponsor Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, assured gay-marriage supporters that the amendment language wouldn't undermine their goal by making it a lesser standard, the Pioneer Press reported. "It's not civil unions by any means," she said.
In a separate preview story, Politics in Minnesota called Thursday's roll call "the most watched vote the Minnesota House will take this year." Supporters say passage in the Senate is likely, but prospects in the House are more iffy. DFL Speaker Paul Thissen says the bill has enough support to pass, although PIM describes the atmosphere in the House this week as "markedly uneasy," with the issue being particularly thorny for rural Democrats.
Gov. Mark Dayton reaffirmed his support for recognizing same sex marriage Wednesday, calling it a "society-changing breakthrough moment."
The House floor session Thursday begins at noon. As many as 40 additional uniformed officers are expected at the Capitol, the Pioneer Press reports.