A Minnesota constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in the state cleared a House panel on Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Independent reported.

Republicans with the exception of Representative Tim Kelly banded together to approve Republican Representative Steve Gottwalt's bill with a narrow 13 to 12 vote. A companion Senate measure has already cleared that chamber.

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.

The panel took no public testimony before voting, but Democrats on the panel decried the measure.

“The founding fathers warned against tyranny of majority. Don't do this,” Representative Kathy Brynaert pleaded.

“Why take away rights in our constitution? Why tear the people of our state apart?” said Representative Kate Knuth. “It makes me physically ill to think of the division we'll see.”

With only four days left in the legislative session, supporters of the ban have fast-tracked the bill to ensure passage in the House before Monday's close.

According to a recent Star Tribune poll, a majority of voters (55%) oppose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, while 39 percent are in favor.