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MPR’s Karen-Louise Boothe reports that a bill banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota appears likely to pass this legislative session. A ban successfully passed out of a joint House-Senate conference committee, which included it in the omnibus health-finance bill.

Gay and lesbian leaders in the state joined Minneapolis DFL-Representative Karen Clark to assail efforts this session in banning same sex marriages.


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KAREN BOOTH: Opponents of same-sex marriage have made numerous attempts to attach a ban to Bills this session. Often the attempts failed because the ban was ruled as non-germane to the legislation at hand. But now a ban has been successfully passed out of a joint House Senate conference committee, which included it in the omnibus Health and Human Services Finance Bill. Minneapolis DFL Representative Karen Clark, who is the only out lesbian in the legislature, was hoping the conferees would eliminate the ban, but they didn't, and she calls the vote a travesty.

KAREN CLARK: What this language is really about is much more about fear and promoting bigotry and discrimination. It's just a very sad day. And I hope that we'll continue to be able to educate Minnesotans about what this is really about. I would say a defense of bigotry, would be a more proper name to apply to what has happened here.

KAREN BOOTH: Current state law requires marriages performed in Minnesota to be between persons of the opposite sex. The ban is a preemptive strike to head off a pending Hawaii Supreme Court ruling, which could determine that such marriage bans are illegal. Supporters of the ban argue that gay and lesbian couples might then travel to Hawaii if same-sex marriages are legal there, and then return home and demand their unions be recognized in Minnesota.

Right now, unless the marriage ban specifically cites same sex couples, the state could be required to legally recognize a marriage that took place and is legal in another state. Scott Cooper, a lobbyist for the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council, says passing such a bill is premature, since its constitutionality is uncertain, and highly debated between legal scholars.

SCOTT COOPER: Yes, it will probably embroil our state in serious litigation, maybe up to the Supreme Court, when people come back from another state like Hawaii and are married and challenge our law, and it will cause serious problems for us. But those issues were not considered by the people who went ahead and voted for this Bill because, like I said, it was not about policy.

KAREN BOOTH: Cooper says he was up against some very heavy lobbying on this issue, and says many lawmakers fear voting their conscience because they might face severe opposition during campaigns by social conservatives. Tom Pritchard of the Minnesota Family Council, an organization which lobbied on behalf of the marriage ban, calls the vote a huge win for traditional family values.

TOM PRITCHARD: I think the fundamental issue, though, is we want to focus on what can strengthen families. And the traditional family, the two-parent family, a mother and a father. All the research and evidence is just so overwhelming that that is essential to the well-being of our society. We look at the consequences of the breakdown of the family, and it's oftentimes by absent fathers et cetera. And children need a mother and a father in their homes, and that's what the society should be encouraging and promoting. And that's where we think our energy should be.

SPEAKER: Wouldn't that be more related to.

KAREN BOOTH: Pritchard says if activists favoring same-sex marriage really want to be allowed to marry, they should draft legislation and propose it. The conference committee report banning same-sex marriage now goes back to the full House and the full Senate for votes before being sent to the governor for final action. At the Capitol, this is Karen Louise Booth, Minnesota Public Radio.


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