Minnesota lawmakers on Saturday night
approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, sending it
to voters for their approval, the Star-Tribune reported.
After roughly five hours of often
emotional debate, House members voted 70 to 62 in favor of Republican
Representative Steve Gottwalt's amendment, which seeks to define
marriage as a heterosexual union in the Minnesota Constitution,
thereby banning gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Minnesota
currently bans such unions by law, but supporters say the law remains
vulnerable to legal challenges without the amendment.
“This is not about hatred, it is not
about discrimination or intolerance,” Gottwalt told House members,
insisting his measure only asked voters to decide the issue.
“This allows the people of Minnesota
to decide if the definition of marriage should be placed permanently
in the state Constitution,” he said.
Republican Representative Tim Kelly
urged lawmakers to reject the amendment: “If we put this amendment
on the Constitution, we are taking a giant step backwards.”
Minnesota's upper chamber has already
approved the amendment.
The House delayed an expected vote on
Friday after an opening prayer by youth pastor Bradlee Dean, an
opponent of gay rights, threw
the chamber into disarray. Dean, who helms the ministry You
Can Run But You Can't Hide International, suggested President
Barack Obama and Democrats are not Christians. House Speaker Kurt
Zellers said he was “offended at the presence of Bradlee Dean on
the floor of the Minnesota House of Representatives.”
Earlier in the week, Democratic
Governor Mark Dayton pledged to fight the effort with “every fiber
of my being” and predicted voters would reject it at the ballot
“I think Minnesotans have much more
compassion and understanding than they recognize and I think it will
be defeated next year,” Dayton told reporters.
On Thursday, opponents
of the measure released a compilation of sound bites from testimony
heard on the amendment.