Minnesota marriage bill to get bipartisan sponsorship
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.