First one, then another… and marriage-equality advocates may soon be able to talk about “a dozen states.”
Minnesota could be next to join 11 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay couples to marry–just days after Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed that state’s Marriage Equality Act into law, and one week after Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee did the same.
The Minnesota House is set to take up a bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Thursday, just six months after voters narrowly defeated a proposal that would have banned such unions. If it passes the House, the measure will go to the state Senate for a vote on Monday.
Speaking to reporters after the House legislation cleared the committee process, Democratic lawmakers sounded optimistic about the bill’s prospects.
“Over the course of the last few days, I think people are feeling more and more comfortable,” said Democratic House Speaker Paul Thissen on Tuesday.
“We are confident we have the votes to take the bill up this week,” said House Majority Leader Erin Murphy.
In order to pass, the bill needs at least 68 votes from the Democrat-controlled House–a goal Thissen thinks is within reach, even if no Republicans vote in favor. But without GOP support, the bill would need the backing of some Democratic lawmakers who represent districts that voted for the state’s failed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
In what could be an olive branch to gay marriage opponents, Republican Rep. David FitzSimmons posted an amendment Wednesday modifying the wording of Minnesota’s marriage law. The proposal calls for use of the term “civil marriage” in all instances, regardless of whether the couples are of the same or opposite genders. The amendment also includes a guarantee that religious organizations cannot be fined, punished, or stripped of special status for refusing to marry gay couples.
FitzSimmons wouldn’t say whether he would vote for legalizing same-sex marriage if his “civil marriage” wording were included, reports the Pioneer Press.
Rather than jumping on the term “civil,” which could allude to an alternative to marriage–like civil unions–Minnesotans United, a leading LGBT advocacy group, embraced the proposed amendment.
“Representative FitzSimmons’ amendment affirms the fact that Minnesotans want same-sex couples to have the freedom to marry in our state while also ensuring that clergy members and religious institutions are free to practice their beliefs free from government intrusion,” said Minnesotans United campaign manager Richard Carlbom in a statement. “We applaud Representative FitzSimmons for introducing this amendment, and we are hopeful that it will bring even more bipartisan support to House File 1054.”