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Opponents of same-sex marriage rally in Minnesota

Opponents of same-sex marriage rally in Minnesota

Several thousand supporters of a constitutional ban on gay marriage rallied Wednesday at the Minnesota capitol, saying all they want is a chance to vote on the issue. "Marriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of our society," Gov. Tim Pawlenty told the cheering crowd. Supporters of the constitutional ban directed much of their ire at the Democrat-controlled senate, which for the last two years has denied floor votes on the issue even as it's passed twice in the Republican-controlled house. The ban, which would prohibit any legal recognition of gay relationships, including civil unions, would put the question to voters in 2006. State law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman; the measure would enshrine that definition in the state constitution, with supporters saying too many bans in other states have been struck down by judges. "We need to make sure that doesn't happen in Minnesota," Pawlenty said. The crowd was close in size to a rally held two weeks ago by opponents of the ban. Capitol security officials didn't provide official estimates of either crowd because the issue is so politically charged. A small group of counter-protesters stood quietly to the side of the rally. Chris Benjamin, a 17-year-old high school student from St. Michael, said he's withstood harassment and discrimination because he's gay and feared the ban would make it worse. "I thought the Pledge of Allegiance said 'liberty and justice for all,'" Benjamin said. "I didn't see any parentheses that said, 'except for homosexuals.'" It was clear that convictions ran deep. One speaker drew comparisons to another controversial social topic, to cheers from the crowd. "Our bodies are vessels to do as God commands," said Rabbi Moshe Feller, director of the Upper Midwest Lubavitch Movement, an Orthodox Jewish group. "We are trustees, not owners of our bodies--much as Terri Schiavo. She belongs to God, not her husband." Bill Harley, a clinical psychologist, told the crowd that moves to extend marriage rights to gays is the next step in a gradual weakening of the institution itself that started with no-fault divorce laws and the decriminalization of adultery. "I don't think this issue is about gay and lesbian civil rights," Harley said. "It's about children and the best way to raise them." (AP)

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