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Minnesota marriage equality bill hits financial snag as end of session nears

Marriage equality

By Jacob CombsMinnesota state seal

The Ways and Means Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives will today consider a marriage equality bill that already received committee approval after a new fiscal note estimated that it would cost the state money.

The Minnesota Management and Budget report estimated that legalizing marriage equality would lead to 114 state employees seeking benefits for their same-sex partners, at a total cost of $688,378 per year.  It also projected that 5,186 couples would marry over the next two years, bringing in around $190,000 in marriage license fees over the same time frame.

The Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote in favor of the bill.  Several of the committee’s members are strong supporters of marriage equality, among them Rep. Karen Clark, the bill’s main House sponsor.

The proposed legislation was advanced by both the House Civil Law Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee in mid-March.  Floor votes have been expected since those committees approved the bill, but leaders in both Democrat-controlled bodies have been taciturn as to when any further action might be taken.  House Speaker Paul Thissen told Minnesota Public Radio the House would only consider the bill if he were “very comfortable that we have the votes to pass it.”  His counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Bakk, told the AP that he expects the House to approve the legislation first, but did not rule out the possibility that the Senate might move the bill forward if the House does not do so.  The legislative session ends on May 20.

Last week, Rep. Joe Radinovich, a crucial Democratic swing vote who represents a rural district, announced that he would vote yes on the legislation.  “To further deny equal rights to all people would be a black eye on this institution and certainly on my own career,” he said.  Last fall, 62 percent of voters in Aitkin and Crow Wing County, which Radinovich represents, voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.  Radinovich said his decision was influenced in part by widespread support for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples among younger voters.

The Twin Cities-based Pioneer Press reported last Friday that six other swing vote representatives will vote yes or are leaning towards voting yes on the bill.  As the paper pointed out, several Democratic Farmer Labor representatives (Minnesota’s Democratic party) are caught between a party that supports equal marriage rights and districts that voted in favor of last year’s constitutional amendment.  The majority of House DFLers–56 of them–come from districts which rejected the amendment.  Radinovich and the other six swing votes would put the count at 63, five short of the 68 required for passage.

Those five additional yes votes–if they do materialize–will likely come come either from the eight DFLers who have not announced how they will marry or the 21 House Republicans whose party opposes marriage equality but whose districts voted against the constitutional amendment.  No House Republican has yet pledged his or her support for the marriage equality bill, and House Republican spokeswoman Susan Closmore told the Pioneer Press, “There’s not a single vote from the House Republican Caucus for the redefinition of marriage.”

In an editorial published last week, Minnesota’s largest paper, the Star-Tribune, urged legislators to back marriage equality.  The paper’s editorial board specifically rejected calls for civil unions or domestic partnerships, and framed the issue as a continuation of the constitutional amendment vote last November:

“The hearts and minds of Minnesotans were touched last fall by a campaign in which same-sex couples and their families, friends, neighbors and coworkers asked for basic equality.

“A majority of Minnesotans then voted against enshrining discrimination in the state Constitution.

“Those same sensibilities should drive legislators to take the next step and allow gay marriage in ­Minnesota.”

The Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee will convene at 10 a.m. local time.  The marriage equality bill, HF1054, will be considered later today after a recess beginning at 11:30.  A live feed will be available here.


  • 1. Equality On Trial »&hellip  |  May 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

    […] to advance a marriage equality bill on a divided voice vote in a quick 10-minute meeting.  As I reported yesterday morning, the committee vote was necessitated even though a previous committee had […]

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