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Marriage amendment to House floor

Published (5/20/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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Amid shouts to vote “no” by audience members, the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee voted 13-12 May 18 to approve letting the full House vote on whether to put the question of defining marriage on the 2012 ballot.

HF1615/ SF1308* would ask the question: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?” Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) and Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) sponsor the bill. It was passed 38-27 by the Senate May 11.

Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) was the lone Republican to vote against the bill, which was otherwise approved along party lines.

Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul) tried to amend the bill to delay the submission to voters until the 2014 election. When that motion failed, he asked to have the bill laid over, which also was unsuccessful.

“This is an important issue, and one that should not be decided by politicians or judges, but one that should be decided by the people,” Gottwalt said.

Public testimony is not typically given in the rules committee, and there was public posting that there would not be public testimony. But with a full room of bill opponents, DFLers thought testimony should be allowed.

“This is kind of the last chance to hear from the public,” said Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul).

Paymar said the job of the committee is to decide “whether the contentiousness and the divisiveness that this bill will probably engender is something that we actually want, not only on the House floor, but on the ballot in 2012. I think it’s important that all these people came here this morning (and) that we allow testimony.”

But Republicans disagreed.

“Our main purpose is to move bills to the House floor. This has been debated in a committee already. It will be debated on the House floor. They took testimony in the previous committee. The public can have a lot of input by calling their state rep to tell them … how they would like to vote,” said Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker).

“The people that didn’t come here, I’m not sure it would be fair to them because they may have looked at that notice, and knowing there was not going to be public testimony, did not take the time to come here,” Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said.

In a 14-11 roll call vote, members voted along party lines not to allow testimony.

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