By Don Davis
Three mothers of gay men joined hundreds of others in the Minnesota Capitol on Thursday with one goal.
“It’s important that they be treated equally,” Mabel Galvin said.
Government should treat all citizens the same, added Kay Allen.
And Therese Presley said government discrimination against gays fosters “divisiveness within families.”
The three Duluth women stood among what organizers said was a crowd of up to 2,000 in the Capitol, all asking state leaders to legalize gay marriage. It was one of the largest under the Capitol dome in the past few years.
The Valentine’s Day gathering brought gay couples, parents and other supporters together as legislators consider whether to overturn a state law banning same-sex marriages. No bills have been introduced, but they are expected to be filed next week.
The three mothers thought about their sons during the rally.
Presley said her son would return to Minnesota from San Francisco if the social climate was better for gays.
Galvin, the oldest of the trio, said that even if the Legislature does not vote to change the law this year, eventually the change will come because 75 percent of young people support gay marriage.
Those at the noisy rally were optimistic gay marriage will be allowed this year after voters in November defeated an attempt to put the ban in the state Constitution. The optimism increased when voters gave Democrats majorities in the House and Senate to work with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
But while most gay-marriage support comes from Democrats, those at the rally cannot count on all Democratic-Farmer-Laborite legislators’ support.
Many rural Democrats, in particular, say they cannot back the law change. An example is Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, whose district strongly opposes gay marriage.
He said that 65 percent of voters in his district supported the November amendment to ban gay marriage.
“I’m going to represent my district,” he added.
Besides just opposing the amendment, Koenen said that his constituents also tell him that there are more important things to do in St. Paul, such as passing a new budget. He said he agrees.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he also wants to deal with the state budget before the full Senate takes up policy issues such as gun bills and gay marriage. He said there would be time for a marriage debate.
Once the House and Senate pass their first versions of the budget, Bakk said, policy issues may be debated.
In the meantime, committees may debate the issue, Bakk said.
“Committees have deadlines,” he said. “They don’t have the option to wait.”
Bakk said he thinks the issue has a chance to pass this year.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said he hopes that the marriage debate does not detract from budget discussion. The Legislature and Dayton need to plug a $1.1 billion deficit and pass a new budget this spring.
President Barack Obama added to the gay-marriage momentum in his Tuesday night State of the Union speech: “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country, the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, or who you love.”