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Minnesota Republicans propose civil unions bill, French Senate to begin debate on marriage equality

Civil Unions Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Several Republican state legislators in Minnesota introduced a bill yesterday that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, according to an AP report.

Rep. Tim Kelly, who is leading the effort, says that civil unions would give same-sex couples the legal rights of marriage but would keep the government out of the debate surrounding the ‘redefinition’ of the word marriage.  Kelly was one of only four Republicans who voted against putting a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality on the 2012 ballot.  Minnesota voters rejected that measure, becoming only the second state ever to do so.

Kelly’s measure comes as supporters of marriage equality have been pushing an equal marriage bill in the legislature following their success against the 2012 constitutional amendment.  The proposed bill was approved in March by committees in both the House and Senate, and will be voted on by both chambers sometime this spring.

LGBT advocates in Minnesota have come out forcefully against Kelly’s proposed civil unions bill.  Sen. Scott Dibble, the marriage equality bill’s chief sponsor, told the AP that civil unions are “a separate and unequal status,” pointing out that they would only be effective in Minnesota and could leave same-sex couples in the state ineligible for federal benefits if the Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, which it considered during oral arguments last week.  In a statement, Minnesotans United, which supports marriage equality, said, “There is simply no comparison for the importance and meaning of marriage in our state.”

Kelly says he might offer the civil unions proposal as an amendment to the marriage equality bill when it is considered on the House floor.  House Speaker Paul Thissen, a pro-equal marriage Democrat, told the AP that civil unions are a concept “whose time has passed.”

In other marriage equality news, the French Senate will today debate a bill to provide equal marriage rights to same-sex couples in France.  The French National Assembly approved the bill by a comfortable 100 vote margin in mid-February, and the legislation has ignited a fierce debate in the country, with protests that have occasionally turned violent.

The governing Socialist Party has a smaller majority in the upper house than it does in the National Assembly, but the bill is still expected to pass.  Around 280 amendments to the bill have been proposed, and a ring-wing party called UMP may file a motion to put the question to a popular vote.  According to Agence France-Presse, debate is likely to continue in the Senate until April 12 or 13.

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