With protesters lining the State Capitol hallways, the Minnesota House had a solemn and emotional debate Saturday night approving a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Voters in 2012 will decide whether to ban gay marriage. The debate lasted for five hours, the final House vote was 70-62. Four Republicans voted no (Reps. Kelly, Koenen, Kriesel, Smith) and two Democrats voted yes (Reps. Dittrich and Koenen).
Very few Republicans spoke and many Democrats shared their strong feelings. Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) revealed he just found out his grandfather was black and his marriage would have been illegal. Rep. John Ward (DFL-Brainerd) added his personal story “For me this is about discrimination, when you have a physical handicap you get discriminated against and bullied.”
Two Republicans who spoke in opposition to the constitutional question brought the usually rowdy chamber to silence. Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) said in his speech that this bill is about “prejudice and discrimination” and then went on to ask the other Republican who planned to vote no “Rep. Kriesel, how did you lose your legs?” Kriesel a freshman Republican from Cottage Grove shared how he lost his legs “fighting for freedom in Iraq.”
Bill author Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) also struck a serious tone saying “This is not a game. I can look each one of you in the eye and say this is important enough that we should put it in the hands of Minnesotans to decide.” Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) who once voted against his caucus to override Gov. Pawlenty’s veto, said he was struggling with his decision and doesn’t like amending the constitution, but he voted for bill.