ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As expected, State Senators in the Judiciary Committee sent a same sex marriage bill on to the full Minnesota Senate on Tuesday afternoon.
Members voted 5 to 3, along party lines, after hearing more than 150 minutes of testimony.
The House Civil Law Committee passed a bill to legalize gay marriage Tuesday night on a 10-7 party-line vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.
"It was hard to sleep the last few nights. I've been so ready to get going on this," DFL Bill Sponsor and Representative Karen Clark of Minneapolis said.
Republicans argue lawmakers should be taking up the budget, and that argument was made in committee. DFL legislators say now that the bills are through committee, the debate won't be renewed until the budget is taken care of.
Republican Peggy Scott called the House Civil Law Committee metro-centric and wondered if the committee vote would be reflective of the overall House vote.
"The jury's still out on that. I think it will come down to those rural members and if they vote the way their constituents want them to. I don't know that there are the votes," the Assitant Minority Leader told KARE 11 after the hearing.
Rep. Clark was confident.
"It think it will pass. The Governor will sign it and Minnesotan families will be stronger," she said.
It was the first time state legislative committees have backed marriage rights for gay couples. The bills now head to the floor, where a final vote is not expected until much later in session.
One of the most passionate speeches came from former lawmaker Lynne Osterman, who served New Hope in the legislature from 2002 to 2004. She was a Republican and says she voted along party lines for DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.
"I wasn't ready for that and I certainly wasn't ready to be encouraged to vote against my conscience and I did that then and it really bothered me," Osterman, who wept on the stand, told KARE 11.
Following her testimony, she hugged the sponsor of this year's same sex marriage bill, Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis). The pair served together back in the early 2000s.
There were plenty of others who spoke for Clark's bill, and there were plenty who spoke against it.
"Those who are supporting a redefinition (of marriage) are telling stories focusing on emotion. I think laws should be based in reason," Teresa Collett said after testifying.
Many of the people who attended the House hearing shuffled over to the State Capitol for that afternoon Senate hearing.
"I just wish we were represented a little more," Roberta Barton said, waiting for the hearing to begin.
Barton says she opposes the same sex marriage legislation.
"There's a lot of things I can be concerned about but the main thing is that I just stand on the word of God and what his word says," she told KARE 11.
David Patton, who testified in both hearings, wasn't standing too far away from Barton while he waited for the committee room doors to open. He wanted to share his story about being raised by his father and his father's partner, George.
"I've got two masters degrees. I'm graduating law school. I've got a wife who loves me and a kid who adores me. I'm OK. Having two dads didn't ruin my life. I promise," he said.
While both measures were expected to breeze through their only respective committees, their approval by the full legislative body was far from certain. Republican Senator Warren Limmer of Maple Grove wondered how rural democrats would vote.
"New Democrats and representatives are going to have to make a decision. Are they going to believe and follow representative government or are they going to advance their own issue base on some political boss down here (in St. Paul)?" he wondered.
The author of the same-sex marriage bill in the Senate, DFLer Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, was happy to see his bill sail through the committee process.
"Definitely a majority of legislators want to take this step. They know it's the right thing to do, that this is about the next step in extending freedom and opportunity for all people. But they want to know where their constituents are," the Senator concluded when asked about what's next.
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