The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 14, 2013

Senate floor vote suggests gay marriage can pass

ST. PAUL — A proposal to allow gay weddings in Minnesota survived several moves by Senate Republicans Wednesday to block it, an early signal the measure likely has enough votes to pass on the floor.

Both on the Senate floor and in a Rules Committee meeting, Democrats who control the chamber defeated a series of Republican motions to postpone its progress. Republicans said they were simply seeking more information about whether it would cost tax money to allow gay couples to marry — in court costs, state employee benefits and other areas.

While the votes were procedural, Republicans portrayed a final floor vote as a functional vote on gay marriage. That motion, which adds the bill to a long list of bills awaiting action on the Senate floor, passed 35-31. One Republican senator joined all but four of the chamber's Democrats to keep the bill moving.

Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, sided with Democrats after previously revealing he supports legalizing gay marriage. The Democrats who went against the majority of their party all represent largely rural districts where last fall's election results, as well as more recent polls, show support for legalizing gay marriage is considerably lower than in the Twin Cities area.

Those Democrats were Kent Eken of Twin Valley, Lyle Koenen of Clara City, Dan Sparks of Austin and LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer.

While the bill survived its first challenge in the full Senate, that's no guarantee of its ultimate passage there. At least one senator who sided with fellow Democrats, Rod Skoe of Clearbrook, said he did so out of respect for traditional procedure and didn't know if he'd vote for the bill on final passage.

"I'm undecided and even if I wasn't, I wouldn't say yet," said Skoe, whose district covers a large portion of northwest Minnesota.

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