Senate, House panels approve gay marriage bill on party line votes

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Committees in the Minnesota House and Senate have approved a measure that would legalize gay marriage in the state.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-3 along party lines, with DFLers supporting the measure. Politics in Minnesota reports in nearly three hours of testimony the committee heard from a range of speakers on either side of the issue.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who chairs the Carlson Cos., testified that discriminating against same-sex couples hurts business recruitment. Earlier, a House committee heard from eleven-year-old Grace Evans, who testified that every Minnesota child should have both a mother and a father.

The House Civil Law Committee voted 10-7, also along party lines, in favor of the bill. The House sponsor, Minneapolis DFLer Karen Clark, said "It's time for us to do the right thing," the Pioneer Press reports.

The full House and Senate are not expected to vote on the measure for a few weeks.

Both opponents and supporters of the legislation have rallied at the Capitol recently.

Lobbyists on both sides of the issue are leaning heavily on lawmakers, focusing in particular on rural Democrats, MPR reports. MPR cites an example: Minnesotans United for All Families over the weekend had volunteers calling voters in the Willmar area, urging them to leave voicemail messages in support of gay marriage for Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar.

"At this point, how can I argue with 69 percent in Willmar saying marriage is between one man and one woman?" Sawatzky said, MPR reported.

Gay marriage advocates hope to capitalize on a vote in the November election, when voters rejected a measure that would have cemented a same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution. But it's not clear that Minnesotans want to take the next step and legalize gay marriage in the state, critics of the bill say. A recent Star Tribune poll found that a majority of Minnesotans do not support legalizing gay marriage.

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