The Minnesota Legislature is set to consider a bill to legalize gay marriage in the state, but few believe it has a chance of passage.

Senator Scott Dibble, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, is the lead sponsor of SF1210, a bill that would grant gay and lesbian couples in the state the right to marry. It has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Mee Moua (DFL). The 9 member committee is composed of 4 Republicans and 5 Democrats.

But gay marriage in Minnesota remains a contentious issue where neither side can claim to have gained much ground on the issue. Bills that sought to ban gay marriage by defining marriage as a heterosexual union in the constitution died in the Legislature in 2004 and then again in 2006. Gay rights advocates failed last year to pass a gay marriage bill. Both sides have said they would be back in 2009.

Lawmakers have approved laws that prohibit gay marriage and the recognition of legal gay marriages or similar unions performed elsewhere.

In a bid to win over detractors, the bill distances itself from endorsing being gay. The bill states that nothing in it “mean[s] the state of Minnesota condones homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle,” or the promotion of it in the public school system.

Dibble, an openly gay man first elected in 2002, told WDIO, an ABC affiliate, that he sponsored the measure to “have [a] public conversation about just how much is at stake for some families.”

Recognition of gay and lesbian unions is being debated in 10 statehouses this legislative session. Gay activists believe they are most likely to gain the right to marry in Vermont and New Jersey this year.

Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has previously stated his opposition to gay marriage.