As thousands of Minnesotans converged on the state capitol's grounds Monday to press for a same-sex marriage ban, an attempt to make the state senate vote on a proposed constitutional amendment accomplishing that goal failed.
The senate voted along party lines--35 to 31--against pulling the bill out of a committee and putting the measure to an immediate floor vote. The senate judiciary committee is scheduled to debate the measure on Friday. If the measure is approved by the house and senate, a proposition would be placed on this November's ballot asking Minnesotans whether their state constitution should be amended to ban same-sex marriages.
"It's imperative that we allow the people of Minnesota to have a voice in the fundamental reordering of society," said Sen. Michele Bachmann. She fears the bill will stall in the judiciary committee, effectively killing it for the year. Senate judiciary committee chairman Don Betzold said he is hearing the bill 11 days after it was introduced. The legislative session began February 2, and Betzold said he was surprised that supporters waited so long to submit the bill. "If there was a desire to have this bill heard earlier, it should have been introduced earlier," Betzold said.
The senate is the main battleground for the bill; the house is expected to approve it when it takes it up, possibly on Wednesday. Constitutional amendments don't require a governor's signature. Debate on the procedural maneuvering lasted less than an hour because Democrats invoked a seldom-used rule allowing them to cut off discussion immediately. That drew howls of protest from the bill's supporters, who were cheered on in the gallery by their backers.
The bill is among the most controversial the legislature will consider this year. That was reinforced by the huge rally occurring as the senate deliberated. Streams of people filled the capitol's lawn for an event organized by the Minnesota Family Council and several other faith-based groups.