Minnesota Lawmakers OK Vote on Gay-Marriage Ban; in Rhode Island, Future Unclear for Civil-Unions Bill

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The gay-marriage battle has come to Minnesota after lawmakers passed a bill late Saturday night to allow voters to define marriage in their state constitution.

The bipartisan 70-62 vote followed two days of rallies over the bill. If passed by voters, Minnesota will become the 32nd state where voters have defined marriage and rejected demands for gay marriage.

Saturday's vote shows what a sea-change elections can bring: Under freshly elected Republican majorities, the amendment, which defines marriage as only a union of one man and one woman, won Senate approval May 11 and sped to a House vote less than two weeks later.

Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, praised the bill's passage.

The institution of marriage predates government and has served as the foundation of society for thousands of years, he said. If marriage is to be redefined, it should only be society, speaking through the electorate who makes this decision, not judges or legislators.

OutFront Minnesota, the Human Rights Campaign and their allies have already formed Minnesotans United for All Families to defeat the amendment. In Minnesota, we treat others like we want to be treated, said campaign spokesman Donald McFarland.

Meanwhile, legislators in other states are being pressed to address gay marriage.

In Rhode Island, where Democrats control both chambers, the House passed a civil-unions bill Thursday. Civil unions provide state marital rights and responsibilities to gay couples.

The bill's fate in the state Senate is unknown, and it faces criticism from both ends of the spectrum. Marriage Equality Rhode Island and other gay rights activists oppose civil unions as second class, and Catholic leaders oppose them as a gateway to gay marriage.

Earlier this year, House Speaker Gordon Fox tried to pass a gay-marriage bill, but reluctantly pulled it for lack of support. The civil-unions bill was introduced as an acceptable alternative since Mr. Fox; Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent; and importantly, state Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed - reportedly support it. …