Minnesota appears poised to legalize gay marriage, as the Democratic speaker of the state House said Tuesday that a gay marriage bill endorsed by the governor and likely to pass in the state Senate also now has enough backing in his chamber.
The House will vote on the measure Thursday, and if it passes, the Democratic-led Senate could vote on it as soon as Saturday.
House Speaker Paul Thissen, of Minneapolis, said that the 73-member Democratic majority he leads will produce at least the 68 votes needed to pass the bill. Senate leaders are also confident of passage, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign the bill, which would allow gay couples to marry as of Aug. 1.
“I think it’s in line with the tradition we’ve had in Minnesota about respecting people, making sure everybody is included in our community and the fullness of participation in that,” Thissen said.
If the bill passes, it would mark a stunning about-face on the issue in Minnesota, where only six months ago voters were asked whether they wanted to enshrine the current gay marriage ban in the state constitution. They didn’t.
No House Republicans have committed to vote for the bill. Thissen said while their votes are not needed, they would be appreciated. “It’s not a partisan issue. You’ve seen many prominent Republicans speak out on this issue,” Thissen said. One Senate Republican, Branden Petersen of Andover, publicly supports the bill.
Fifth-term Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Republican from Farmington, told The Associated Press he decided Monday night he would oppose the bill, saying he had concerns about the adequacy of religious protections. He said he preferred an alternate civil union proposal that would extend gay couples more legal rights, but wouldn’t allow them to marry.
“We would be much better off unifying the state behind civil unions,” Garofalo said. Another Republican, Rep. Tim Kelly planned to push an amendment Thursday to swap gay marriage for civil unions.
Unable to count on any Republican support, House Democrats have had to rely on support from several party members from rural, more socially conservative areas where voters strongly backed last fall’s failed proposed gay marriage ban. But in recent days, a number of those members have come out in support of the bill.