A Minnesota Senate panel on Friday advanced to the floor a resolution that aims to ban gay marriage in the state.

The 11-member Senate Rules and Administration Committee approved Republican Senator Warren Limmer's amendment on a voice vote.

If approved, voters would be asked in 2012 to decide on the definition of marriage. Minnesota law already bans gay and lesbian couples from marrying, but supporters say the law remains vulnerable to legal challenges without the amendment.

Senator Linda Berglin, a Democrat from Minneapolis, asked the committee to delay the measure for a year to allow time for more pressing matters in the legislative session's final 2 weeks.

“We don't need to use the little time we have left where we're supposed to be talking about resolving a budget, we're supposed to be talking about jobs, we're supposed to be talking about the economy of our state,” Berglin said. “None of those things relate to this.”

When Richard Cohen, a Democrat from St. Paul, asked Limmer whether it would be wiser to offer an amendment as a response to a legal challenge, Limmer said he wanted to cut off any imminent legal challenges.

“I believe and I believe that proponent of the bill believe that this is an issue that is so broad and of an intimate nature that it really should not be in the hands of a court. It should be in the hands of the people of Minnesota,” Limmer responded.

A motion to table the amendment failed along a 6-5 party-line vote.

A companion version of the measure cleared a House committee earlier this week. Representative Steve Simon told lawmakers at the hearing that being gay was a gift from God, earning him nationwide attention.

Video from a young woman's testimony at last week's Senate hearing has also gone viral on YouTube.com. Republican Madeline Koch, 24, told lawmakers that acceptance of gay people – and their relationships – is “something Minnesota's next generation of leaders has already embraced.”

Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has pledged his support for allowing gay couples to marry, but Republicans who won control of both chambers of the Legislature on November 2 don't need his OK to place the question on the ballot.