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Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage advances

A plan to allow Minnesota voters to decide on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriages advanced in the Legislature today, passing out of the House Civil Law Committee on a 10-7 party line vote.

All the Republicans voted for it.

Supporters hope to put the measure on the 2012 ballot; because it's a constitutional amendment, Gov. Mark Dayton does not have veto power, should the proposal pass the Legislature.

Although state law already prohibits marriage between two men or two women, those pushing the amendment worry that the Legislature or courts could easily change the law, but that a constitutional amendment would make the ban more iron-clad. The plan would not, however, outlaw civil unions.

Committee testimony from opponents included concerns that it encourages discrimination.

There's also concern that the issue is distracting legislators from the tough financial problems facing the state, and that the campaigns for and against the amendment would be costly for both sides and extremely divisive.

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