By Don Davis
Republicans call gay marriage a distraction from important duties legislators face, such as passing a state budget.
On Thursday, Republican legislators packed a stage during a rally supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
About 1,000 people jammed the Minnesota Capitol holding signs with slogans such as “marriage should be reinforced, not redefined.”
President Brian Brown of the National Organization of Marriage energized the crowd in the rally’s keynote address.
“Children deserve the chance to have both a mother and a father,” Brown said. “We will never stop fighting for the truth.”
Brown’s group was a major funder for the Minnesota for Marriage organization that spearheaded last fall’s campaign to amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriages. Their effort failed, and now same-sex marriage supporters are backing a bill that would overturn existing state law that bans gay marriage.
The House Civil Law Committee debates the issue at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday and the Senate Judiciary Committee takes it up at noon that day.
Republican lawmakers said they have spent little time on the issue.
“There hasn’t been a lot of chatter,” Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee, said.
Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, said she has heard that enough rural Democrats will vote with Republicans against the gay marriage bill to give it no chance. But discussing the issue should not be anyone’s priority this legislative session, she said.
“It is a divisive conversation,” she said. “We should be dealing with the budget.”
Any committee time used to consider the marriage bill, Kiel added, is time taken away from talking about the budget.
The bill introduced by two openly gay Minneapolis Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark, would allow any two people to marry, regardless of gender. It also includes a provision saying clergy may refuse to marry any two people for any reason.
Brown complained that during last fall’s election campaign gay marriage supporters said that if the amendment failed nothing would change in Minnesota marriage.
“The voters of the state of Minnesota were sold a bill of goods,” Brown said.