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By David Bailey, Reuters
The Minnesota Senate is expected to give final approval on Monday to a bill that would make the state the 12th in the United States to allow same-sex couples to marry and only the second in the Midwest.
Leaders in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 39-28 majority, have said they believe they have the support to approve a bill legalizing gay marriage. They set a vote for Monday on the measure that members of the state House approved last week.
Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bill, which would make Minnesota the third state this month to legalize gay marriage after Rhode Island and Delaware. The law would take effect August 1.
Minnesota would join Iowa as the only other Midwestern state to permit gay marriage and the first to do so through legislation. Iowa has permitted same-sex marriage since 2009 under a state Supreme Court order.
The Minnesota House had been expected to be the bigger hurdle, but representatives voted 75-59 on Thursday to approve a bill with some Republican support.
The measure has at least one Republican sponsor in the Senate.
Senator Scott Dibble, the bill’s architect, has said the stronger-than-expected vote from representatives was very encouraging and urged same-sex marriage supporters to continue active lobbying for the bill right up to Monday’s vote.
Hundreds of supporters and opponents of the proposal to legalize same-sex marriage demonstrated at the Capitol on Thursday. A similar atmosphere was expected on Monday.
The vote on Thursday was a sharp reversal for Minnesota’s legislature. Two years ago, Republicans controlled both chambers and bypassed the governor to put forward a ballot measure that would have made the state’s current ban on gay marriage part of the state constitution.
Rhode Island is set to become the 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry following a key vote in the state’s General Assembly this week. Gay marriage supporters are shifting their focus to other states, including:
Delaware. The state’s House approved a bill Tuesday legalizing same-sex marriage on a 23-18 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate. It has the support of Democratic Gov. Jack Markell. Delaware approved same-sex civil unions last year.
New Jersey. The Democratic-led legislature is expected to attempt to override Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of gay marriage legislation a year ago. But there aren’t enough Democrats to guarantee an override, and Christie has suggested putting the question before voters.
Oregon. Gay marriage advocates hope to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would reverse a ban on gay marriage passed by voters in 2004. The effort has the support of Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Minnesota. Hundreds of gay marriage supporters gathered at the state Capitol this month to urge lawmakers to vote for gay marriage. Legislation has cleared committees in both the House and Senate.
Illinois. The state’s Senate approved gay marriage legislation on Valentine’s Day. Supporters in the House say they’re still a few votes short but hope a vote is held before the General Assembly adjourns this spring. Gov. Pat Quinn supports the bill.
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St. Paul – The gay marriage issues two sides are engaged in smaller versions of last years campaign leading up to a constitutional amendment vote.
Gay marriage advocates rallied at the state Capitol during a Thursday sleet storm, drawing a few hundred people, including Gov. Mark Dayton, who restated his strong support for them.
And during the weekend, anti-gay marriage Minnesotans took a second road trip in a recreational vehicle scheduled to make a half-dozen stops to rally fellow opponents.
The new campaign looks a bit like the one last year, before voters opted not to put a same-sex marriage ban into the state Constitution.
With state budget bills due to pass the full House and Senate by the end of April, early May attention will turn to policy issues like gay marriage for many lawmakers while others negotiate budgets.
Democratic legislative leaders say they are optimistic a bill legalizing gay marriage will pass. Opponents also voice optimism as they travel greater Minnesota, where even many Democrats oppose gay marriage.
We could not be any more excited to hit the road and meet fellow supporters of traditional marriage in Greater Minnesota, said Crystal Crocker, Minnesota for Marriages grassroots director. With the metro area and gay marriage lobbyists trying to force gay marriage on the majority of Minnesotans who want our states marriage law left as it is, we are ready to help Minnesotans around the state connect with their legislators in St. Paul.
The chief gay marriage proponent in the House, Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minn., said she expects the bill to pass. Were very, very close.
Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, proposed dropping the word marriage from state law and replace it with civil union. Many gay marriage supporters and opponents do not like the idea, which Kelly considers a compromise.
Schedules out the door
The amount of change happening in Washington right now is impressive. Congressional leaders are debating legislation on gun control and immigration, and lawmakers from both parties are coming out in support of gay marriage. This kind of sea change cant happen right now with energy and climate policy. Here are five reasons why.
1. Humanizing policy. Despite what Candy Crowley might say about climate change people and despite the message conveyed by the American Petroleum Institute with its energy voter campaign from last year, energy and climate policy does not embody itself in human beings. Contrast that with immigration, gay marriage, and gun control. Hispanics, and the U.S. companies who employ them, want immigration reform. People whose family members or close friends are gay want them to be able to get married. Surviving victims of gun violence and family and friends of those killed want Congress to do something, anything, to crack down on guns. The political benefits of these human elements are reflected in effective advertising and lobbying that pull on peoples heart strings. The connection between human beings and what Washington can or should do with energy and climate policy is less tangible.
2. Electoral consequences. This is the biggest reason why the Republican Party, which got just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2012 presidential race, wants to do something on immigration. For energy and environment policy, these consequences have either not materialized at all or the consequences have negatively affected candidates seeking to change the status quo. To wit: In the 2010 midterm elections, when the House flipped control from Democrats to Republicans, several red-state Democrats, such as former Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., lost their seats in part because of their votes in favor of legislation that created a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, which the scientific consensus agrees causes global warming. Frankly, a lot of us believe Republicans are in the majority because of cap-and-trade, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a recent interview with National Journal Daily.
3. Agreeing on the problem. As long as the leaders of the Republican Party deny that Congress must act to address global warming, not enough political momentum will exist to move energy and climate policy forward. Washington cannot solve a problem whose definition it cannot agree on. Contrast that with immigration, gun control, and gay marriage. Lawmakers from both parties agree on the problem with immigration and gun control. This doesnt necessarily mean Congress will pass meaningful legislation on either one of these contentious issues, but it has clearly set the stage for meaningful legislative momentum. On gay marriage, both the majority of the public and more and more lawmakers are agreeing that there doesnt seem to be a problem at all with gay people having a right to marry someone they love.
4. Cultural roots. The issues of marriage, immigration, and gun control are rooted not in science, but culture. Climate change, and its connection to fossil fuels, is instead chiefly rooted in science. Almost all scientists around the world agree humans use of coal, oil, and natural gas is causing global warming, but the science is not yet quite as clear or settled when it comes to how global warming affects people on a more granular level by way of extreme weather such as droughts, more intense storms, and heat waves. As long as that scientific consensus is not strong, Washington will find it hard to gain momentum on big energy and climate legislation. People already find it hard to wrap their heads around how climate change affects them personally, and unsettled science doesnt help make that clearer. Some experts say that by the time the scientific consensus about the connection between global warming and extreme weather is crystal-clear enough for political momentum, it will be too late to do anything about the most adverse effects of climate change. Some people think its already too late.
5. Taking your time. Advocates for immigration reform have been grappling for reform for some 30 years. For gun-control advocates, 1994 was the last time any major legislation was passed in their favor (and that legislation, the assault-weapons ban, ended up hurting Democrats politically in the 1994 elections). Gay-marriage supporters first started fighting for their cause in the early 1970s. Congress last passed major energy legislation in 2005 and 2007. The last time it passed major environmental legislation was the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Congress first started debating substantive legislation to address global warming some 13 years ago, at the start of this millennium. Thats longer than some political careers, but in Washington legislative speak, it could be considered normal. There was one time I put a clean-air bill on the floor, said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the longtime chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee during the 1980s and ’90s. Everyone patted me on the back and said: Oh, Dingell, youve got this bill through in 13 hours. Howd you do it? I said: Oh, it was really simple, it only took me 13 years to get that damn thing to where I could get it through in 13 hours. He didnt mention the bill by name, but Dingell was referring to those 1990 amendments of the Clean Air Act.
In other words, just be patient, energy and climate watchers. Its not your timeright now.
By Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News
Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two highly publicized gay-marriage cases, a majority of Americans continue to say they support same-sex marriage, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Fifty-three percent of respondents favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, which is up 2 points since the NBC/WSJ survey last asked this question in December, though that increase is within the polls margin of error.
Forty-two percent oppose gay marriage also up 2 points since late last year.
By party, 73 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents back gay marriage, while 66 percent of Republicans oppose it.
Strikingly, nearly 8-in-10 respondents (79 percent) say they know or work with someone who is gay or lesbian, which is an increase of 14 points since December and 17 points since 2004.
However, only 15 percent say that knowing or working with someone gay makes them more likely to back same-sex marriage; 4 percent say it makes them less likely to support it, and more than half say it doesnt make a difference.
Win Mcnamee / Getty Images file photo
Equal rights supporters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments March 26, in California’s proposition 8, the controversial ballot initiative that defines marriage only between a man and a woman.
These numbers come after numerous Democratic politicians, plus a handful of Republicans, have recently announced their support for gay marriage. They also come as the Supreme Court is expected to decide two different cases this summer one on the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law which prohibits the government from recognizing gay marriages performed in states where they are legal, and the other on Californias Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in that state.
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Delaware legislators proposed marriage equality legislation today, saying that they expect gay marriage to be legal in Delaware by June.
Delaware lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, with plans to have it signed into law by the end of June.
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The legislation, which the governor has pledged to sign if passed by lawmakers, was filed a little more than a year after Delaware first began recognizing same-sex civil unions.
Critics of the civil union legislation warned at the time that it was simply a precursor to same-sex marriage in Delaware, which could soon join nine other states that have legalized gay marriage.
Gov. Jack Markell and Attorney General Beau Biden, both Democrats, joined lawmakers and other proponents Thursday to express their support of the bill.
“The department I run, the Department of Justice, is fully committed to correcting an injustice,” Biden said.
The governor said the bill is about the most basic of individual rights, “the pursuit of happiness.”
“It’s time that we do the right thing,” Markell said.
With Americans tilting toward support of gay marriage and two GOP senators now in favor, Republicans find themselves in a tightening political vice on the issue ahead of mid-term elections and the 2016 presidential race.
Last year was a watershed of sorts for the movement, with gay marriage laws passing in three states, Democratic President Barack Obama offering his public endorsement of marriage equality, and Wisconsin electing Tammy Baldwin as the first openly gay US senator.
But same-sex marriage is suddenly, unavoidably in the political spotlight once again, with the US Supreme Court mulling whether to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act which restricts federal benefits to marriages between a man and a woman.
And with the number of US senators backing gay marriage roaring past the halfway mark this past week — 53 of 100 members are now in favor — activists say Republicans risk getting left in the movement’s wake, which could find them struggling to attract new voters.
“The reality is, there is now irrefutable momentum in the country” in favor of marriage equality, Evan Wolfson, a founder of the gay marriage movement in the United States and president of the non-partisan group Freedom to Marry, told AFP.
With each passing year the support for gay marriage grows greater and broader, with a solid 58 percent now in favor, according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News survey.
Wolfson said “true opposition to gay marriage is dwindling and isolated to a few demographic groups” — namely Americans over 65, non-college-educated whites, and white evangelical Christians.
Young Republicans are siding with Democrats on the issue. Conservative freshman Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona even conceded last week it was “inevitable” that a future Republican presidential nominee would be in favor of marriage equality.
That puts Republicans in a pickle, especially after party leaders conducted a brutal self-criticism in the wake of their 2012 election debacle and announced they must do more to attract minorities like Hispanics.
Conservatives promote family and traditional values in their political platform. A Republican White House hopeful who openly espouses same-sex marriage could alienate the party’s base, while opposing it could trigger charges he or she is behind the times.
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While Senate Democrats are rapidly accepting gay marriageonly seven holdouts remainthat’s not the case for their Republican counterparts. Just two GOP senators have come out in support of same-sex marriage this year: Rob Portman of Ohio, who announced his support last month, and Mark Kirk of Illinois, who joined Portman on Tuesday.
But the lonely Portman-Kirk caucus could get some additions soon. Yes, foreseeing a change of positions on gay marriage can be difficult (see: Portman, a longtime opponent of gay marriage who changed positions after his son came out), and many Democratic lawmakers who have made the switch said it was a personal evolution, as well. That said, senators public statements, political situations back home, and personal experiences offer a few clues to who could evolve next.
Here are the five Republicans to watch:
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska What shes said:If theres only one more Republican that flips, its probably going to be Murkowski. She told theChugiak-Eagle River Starthat her views are evolving but stopped short of endorsing gay marriage. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is a change afoot in this country in terms of how marriage is viewed,” she told the paper.
The political calculus: Murkowski indicated that where she falls on gay marriage could depend on where Alaskans stand. The state passed an amendment in 1998 that defines marriage as between a man and woman. But there are signs that its not political suicide to support gay marriage even in a heavily Republican state like Alaska. Her Democratic colleague, Sen. Mark Begich, has come out in favor of gay marriage, and he is up for reelection in 2014.
Susan Collins of Maine
What shes said: Collins has described herself as a champion of equal rights for gays and lesbians, the Associated Pressreports.The story goes on to say she doesnt openly support gay marriage. When asked her stance on gay marriage, her office responded to National Journal by noting her votes in support of gay rights and that she voted against proposed constitutional amendments defining marriage. She believes this matter is best left up to the states, which have traditionally handled family law,” spokesman Kevin Kelley wrote. “Senator Collins will carefully follow the Supreme Court’s consideration of this important issue.”
The political calculus: Collins, a moderate Republican from a blue state, faces reelection in 2014. And although Democrats acknowledge beating Collins would be a tough task, not supporting gay marriage could provide Democrats with an opening for attack. She also doesn’t have to fear an attack from the right, since conservatives in the state have yet to rally behind someone who could challenge her. In the end, the political benefits to supporting gay marriage outweigh potential harm.
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When the history books are written, Sen. Bob Casey’s name will be listed among the Democrats who almost switched en masse to become supporters of gay marriage in 2013.
If Casey had delayed any longer, he may have risked being remembered as the odd man out.
But the Pennsylvania Democrat’s announcement Monday that he supports same-sex marriage adds him to the ranks of former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and congressional Democrats who in the last several weeks have made public their support for gay marriage.
In an interview, Casey said he had decided over time that the Defense of Marriage Act — the federal law that defines marriage as one man and one woman — should be repealed, and determined that such a belief could not be separate from the overall question of gay marriage.
“I ultimately decided that to make a decision about DOMA was making a decision about marriage equality itself,” Casey said. Casey gave interviews to The Morning Call and the Philadelphia Gay News before making his support public.
Casey said he will sign on as a co-sponsor to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act when the Senate reintroduces such legislation.
“It wasn’t until recently that I thought some point this year it will be reintroduced, so that was a question I was asking myself: Can you separate the vote on that [from] the ultimate question on marriage equality?” Casey said. “There’s no way to do that.”
Casey’s public switch comes less than a week after the Supreme Court heard arguments in two landmark gay marriage cases.
In recent days half a dozen of Casey’s Democratic colleagues reversed their position and became same-sex marriage supporters, but Casey did not. And in the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court cases, the senator stayed quiet on the issue.
Casey’s reversal now leaves just eight of 53 Senate Democrats who say they do not support gay marriage.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk is now the second Republican in the US Senate to support gay marriage. Senator Kirk made the announcement via his Senate blog Tuesday, saying life comes down to who you love and who loves you back government has no place in the middle.
Kirk joins Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who took a similar position last month. There are now 50 US senators who support gay marriage, a number that includes 46 Democrats and two independents.
Like Senator Portman, whose gay son prompted his change in stance on the issue, Kirk framed his reversal on his personal life. He suggested his return to the Senate after a year absence following a major stroke played a role in his decision.
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When I climbed the Capitol steps in January, I promised myself that I would return to the Senate with an open mind and greater respect for others. Our time on this earth is limited, I know that better than most, he wrote.
While Kirk’s switch carries some symbolic weight, far more significant would be a Republican senator in a red state openly supporting gay marriage. Last week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska told a local media outlet that her views on gay marriage are evolving but would not commit further. Only two Republicans in the US House, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of New York, are on record with their support.
Kirk is on record as a moderate on gay rights, which reflects the fact that he represents a solidly blue state and won the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama.
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Kirk lives in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb that swings moderate to liberal on social issues. He has supported civil unions, opposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and, in November 2010, was one of eight Republican senators who voted to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that barred gays from serving in the military.
During his 2010 Senate race, he opposed gay marriage and backed the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines marriage as between a man and a woman though he added: I also don’t think we should have a federal takeover of all marriage law in the United States. I think the federal government is already trying to take over too much, he said in an October debate that year.
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