Minnesota marriage bill to get bipartisan sponsorship

Timothy Kincaid

February 20th, 2013

From the StarTribune:

Republican state Sen. Branden Petersen is preparing to become a co-sponsor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

Having a Republican co-author would be an enormous political coup for same-sex marriage advocates as they prepare to unveil their proposal in the days ahead. Petersen would become the first Republican legislator to publicly support same-sex marriage, highlighting the rapidly changing dynamics of the issue at the Capitol.

What makes this a bit interesting is that just a year ago he voted to put Minnesota’s anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot. It failed by a 51 – 48 margin (1% left their ballot blank and they were counted as “no”).

What makes this shocking is where Petersen hails from, Anoka County. His neighbors’ kids attend the Anoka-Hennepin School District, perhaps the most hostile to their gay children in the nation. His hometown banned a support group for at-risk gay youth from participating in the Halloween Parade. His constituents regularly reelect Michele Bachmann.

Part of Petersen’s decision may be based in his observations about Illinois. There GOP Senators demanded changes to the proposed bill to appease concerns of their constituents. But just a month before they had been given a bill with those conditions in it and they rallied in opposition; so Democrats, who now control the legislature with votes to spare, felt no need to give any consideration to the Republicans’ newfound call for compromise.

Petersen said he has several concerns that must be addressed before he will sign onto the measure. He wants to add language guaranteeing that any religious leader can choose not to wed same-sex couples. He also insists that kids in same-sex marriages have the same financial guarantees as children of other married couples in time of divorce.

“It’s only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal,” Petersen said. “I thought it was important to engage the issue now, and when we do it, do it right, and that there’s some perspective from the people I represent in that.”

These are concerns that neither I nor the bill sponsors have a problem with. The first is constitutionally protected anyway, and the second is a responsible action that our community can support. And I think it is wise of Petersen to recognize that if you join the movement, you get to have a say in the details.

But, as will come as no surprise, Peterson is also strongly motivated by his personal relationships.

Petersen, 27, admits this is a wrenching issue for him and could be politically damaging back home. His father-in-law has been in a same-sex relationship for nearly 20 years, but Petersen says this issue has fiercely divided his family in the same way it has split the rest of the state. He started discussing the issue with colleagues, his pastor and close friends before taking his public stance.

Petersen’s support is a significant advantage for our community. As it is certain that some Democratic legislators will vote against us, we will need Republican support to win.


February 20th, 2013

Of special note: Petersen represents the Minnesota Senate district that includes the Anoka-Hennepin school district, infamous for the suicides of Justin Aaberg and several others.


February 20th, 2013

D’oh. That detail’s in the article already. Reading comprehension failure! :)

Ben In Oakland

February 20th, 2013

I truly appreicate the man’s support. However…

“His father-in-law has been in a same-sex relationship for nearly 20 years, but Petersen says this issue has fiercely divided his family in the same way it has split the rest of the state.”

Let’s be strictly accurate here. It’s neither his father-in-law’s sexuality nor marriage equality that has divided his family.

Mr. Peterson, bigotry has divided your family. You may also put the responsibility on those who believe that bigotry is more important than family, and on yourself for your former willingness to sacrifice your family unity on the altar of republican and teabagger politics.

Neon Genesis

February 21st, 2013

While I appreciate Petersen’s support for marriage equality, I think it’s a bit of stretch to call this bipartisan sponsorship considering that Republican activists are already plotting to kick him out of office for daring to go against the party’s official stance.

Timothy Kincaid

February 21st, 2013

Neon Genesis,

I’ve not seen that yet. Can you provide a link to a source?


Neon Genesis

February 21st, 2013


“On Wednesday, Republican activist Andy Parrish blasted Petersen in an email fundraising pitch for his political committee, A Stronger Minnesota. The group “holds ‘Republicans’ like Petersen accountable for straying from traditional Minnesota values,” wrote Parrish, who helped run last fall’s unsuccessful campaign to pass the gay marriage ban.

Sen. Dan Hall, a social conservative from Burnsville, said he was disappointed in Petersen but doubted any other Republican senators would join him.

“I think same-sex marriage is wrong,” Hall said. “It’s a lifestyle that is not healthy spiritually or physically. I think any time the government OKs something, it’s an endorsement or promotion of it so I think it’s unhealthy for us to do that.”

Timothy Kincaid

February 21st, 2013

NG – thank you. Yeah, Parrish isn’t happy.

But “bipartisan support” is what you call something that has support from both parties. It does not mean that the parties support evenly, it just means that both are there to some extent.

Being able to say that a marriage bill has “bipartisan support” is a very very valuable tool for our community in our fight for equality. It’s very important in swaying the Independents and moderates of both parties who tend to be suspicious of bills that have 100% of Democrats with one position and 100% of Republicans with the other.

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