The vote comes just hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a Senate version of the bill, advancing it to the full Senate.
The bill’s sponsor in the House is openly gay lawmaker Rep. Karen Clark, who said the referendum was an affirmation that Minnesotans see gay couples as equal members of society and should be afforded rights others have.
“In Minnesota, we don’t turn our backs on family,” said Clark.
Several lawmakers, including Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, questioned whether the bill gives enough protection to people who may object to same-sex marriage. The bill stipulates that churches would not be required to perform same-sex marriages, but the Lakeville Republican asked about caterers, wedding photographers or florists who don’t want to provide their services to gay couples.
University of Minnesota Law Professor Dale Carpenter said current state law already prohibits businesses from discriminating against customers based on sexual orientation. The state recognizing same-sex marriages wouldn’t change that, he said.
Richard Painter, another university law professor who worked in former President George W. Bush’s administration, urged the Legislature to extend the right to marry to all Minnesotans.“Republicans understand that some things are none of the government’s business, and one of them is who you marry,” Painter said.
Sen. Branden Petersen, of Anoka, is the only current Republican lawmaker so far who has publicly supported the bill.
Both the House and Senate chairmen said the next stop after their committees would be the House and Senate floors. Final legislative action in both chambers could still be months away as lawmakers deal with the state budget first.
The bills need 68 votes in the House and 34 votes in the Senate.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he would sign the bill if the Legislature sends it to him. Same-sex weddings could begin as early as August.