Supporting same-sex marriage legislation — which likely would require some bipartisan support to pass in Minnesota — may have just gotten easier for some Republicans.
For Republican lawmakers and some rural Democrats, the divisive issue will be very difficult to navigate.
So far, neither Democrats nor Republicans have counted legislative votes, and both sides said they wouldn’t take official caucus positions on the issue.
But GOP legislative leaders said Friday that Republican members wouldn’t face punishment from their caucuses for supporting the measure, should they choose.
“People are elected to vote what they believe to be the right thing, and that’s how we should operate,” Senate Minority Leader David Hann told reporters on Friday. “I don’t anticipate there’s going to be punitive actions taken against members based on how they vote, and I certainly don’t support that.”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt agreed. Both Republican leaders personally favor preserving Minnesota’s current state law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
It’s unclear, though, how much relief Hann’s reassurance will provide on-the-fence lawmakers, especially suburban Republicans whose districts voted against the failed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage last November.
For instance, House Deputy Minority Leader Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie has declined to say how she would vote. An Associated Press report shows in other states, bucking party lines to support such proposals has cost some Republican lawmakers.
Supporters say proposed legislation in the House and Senate could come as early as next week. The public face of the campaign to legalize gay marriage launched on Thursday with a huge rally at the Capitol.
The amendment-turned-lobbying campaign, Minnesotans United For All Families, has marshaled thousands of volunteers in support of same-sex marriage, and many individual lawmakers deeply support the plan. Even so, DFL legislative leaders have remained quiet.
House Speaker Paul Thissen acknowledged that the major DFL legislative leaders personally support legalizing gay marriage. But he and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk declined to even guarantee that any proposal would land on the House or Senate floors, let alone pass.
“Bills that will have 34 votes are going to get to the floor of the Senate,” Bakk joked, referring to the number of votes required to pass legislation. “Those that don’t probably won’t.”
Bakk and Thissen reiterated Friday that DFLers would begin considering policy proposals — possibly including gun-control measures and a minimum wage hike, in addition to gay marriage — once both chambers have dealt with the budget.
“I expect you’re going to see hearings” on gay marriage legislation,” Bakk said. “But my thought is we will try and get the budget off of the floor in the Senate and into conference committee before we take up any significant policy initiatives.”