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Marriage amendment bill advances

Published (5/6/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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University of St. Thomas law professor Teresa Collett, right, testifies before the House Civil Law Committee May 2 in support of a bill that would ask voters to amend the state constitution to recognize marriage as only a union between one man and one woman. 
Rep. Steve Gottwalt, left, sponsors the bill. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)Two House committees advanced a bill to put a constitutional amendment question on the November 2012 ballot to define marriage as “only a union of one man and one woman.”

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud), HF1613 now awaits action by the full House. Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Brainerd) sponsors a companion, SF1309, which awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee May 4 and the House Civil Law Committee May 2, Gottwalt said recent polls indicate that 70 percent of Minnesotans want to vote on the issue.

Indicative of the divisive nature of the bill were two rabbis who spoke on opposite sides of the issue. Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker, who officiated a same-sex marriage, said the definition of marriage should stay within the realm of religion and not the jurisdiction of the state. Allowing voters to decide could result in the state imposing its religious views on a minority.

Rabbi Moshe Feller said it is clear from Scripture that the purpose of becoming man and wife is found in Genesis where it says to “be fruitful and multiply.”

A Catholic bishop, Lutheran pastor, civil rights activist and a Latino minister from a Spanish-language non-denominational church in Bloomington were among those who spoke in favor of the bill. In addition, University of St. Thomas law professor Teresa Collett said 30 other states define marriage as a union between one man and one woman and that half of the 10 states that allow same-sex privileges do so because of a judge’s order.

Jennifer Roback Morse, president of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage, said recognizing same-sex marriages would be “nothing more than a government registry of friendships” and that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable.

Opponents said the bill would cause division between families, neighbors and co-workers and would not help anyone. Representatives of OutFront Minnesota and Project 515 and the adult son of two dads spoke against the bill. Dr. Paul Melcher said the bill would have a detrimental effect on children of same-sex couples, who should be entitled to equal rights, benefits and protections as children of heterosexual couples. “Instead you should be focusing on improving the health care and education for all children,” he said.

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