Legislation in Minnesota to legalize same-sex marriage was announced during a state capitol news conference on Wednesday.
Democrat Senator Scott Dribble and co-author of the bill, said he hopes to “allow folks who so desire who have demonstrated the lifetime of love and commitment to get married, even if they are a same sex couple.”
Republican Senator Branden Peterson, the only member of his party co-sponsoring the legislation, was not in attendance. However, he did issue a statement expressing strong support.
“As a strong proponent of limited government, conservative principles and individual liberty, I am proud to add my name as co-author of legislation to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Minnesota,” he said.
Peterson also recently told 429 Magazine “we can strengthen the institution of marriage by allowing all Minnesotans the freedom to participate in it and pursue happiness, free from government roadblocks. Now is the time to do the right thing.”
To protect religious freedom, the bill would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, but does not force religious leaders to wed them. Religious groups that accept same-sex unions could still perform ceremonies, however.
A press conference for those still in opposition will be held this afternoon to state why they oppose marriage equality. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, opponents have argued that if same-sex marriage were legal, then it would be taught in school, and children are best served by heterosexual parents.
Additionally, an anti-marriage equality rally will be held March 7 and The National Organization for Marriage says it plans to spend $500,000 to defeat any Minnesota Republican who votes in favor of marriage equality and finance any Democrat who votes against the bill.
The battle over marriage equality in Minnesota has been increasing in intensity over the past two years. Last November, Minnesotans voted down a constitutional amendment proposed by Republicans that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. It failed by about 150,000 votes after a long and expensive campaign.
“It was a very clear statement,” said Representative Karen Clark, a Minneapolis Democrat. “We are now ready to take the next steps.”
Legislative leaders, currently tied up in a budget fight, have yet to commit to bringing up the marriage issue for a floor vote. And Dibble himself is unsure if he has the votes to pass the bill in the Democratic-led Legislature.
Governor Mark Dayton has committed to signing the marriage equality bill should it come to his desk.