A gay marriage bill cleared a Minnesota House panel on Monday as opponents demonstrated at the Capitol.

Nearly two months after the House Civil Law Committee approved the measure with a 10-7 vote, the House Ways & Means Committee followed suit with a voice vote.

The Ways & Means Committee focused on the cost to provide health insurance for the spouses of gay state employees, an estimated $688,000 tab.

“Thousands of families are headed by same-sex parents in our state, and they should not have to wait another day for the joys, opportunities and responsibilities that come with marriage,” Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United, told the Star-Tribune.

Standing in front of a group of children holding up signs which read, “Don't Erase Moms and Dads from MN Public Policy,” nearly a dozen opponents lined up at a press conference held at the Capitol to discuss their belief that the bill would hurt religious liberties in the state.

“Are we really going to punish and treat people as bigots who simply believe what societies all across the world have believed about marriage throughout human history?” Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which represents the state's Roman Catholic bishops, rhetorically asked attendees. “That is what is at stake here, and that is what will happen in Minnesota if marriage is redefined.”

Democrats introduced the bill which would make Minnesota the 11th state to legalize gay nuptials following the defeat of a statewide ballot initiative in November which sought to define marriage as a heterosexual union in the Minnesota Constitution.