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Gay marriage clears Minnesota House, heads to Senate

If the Minnesota Senate votes to legalize gay marriage next Monday, as expected, it will be the 12th state in the US to offer full marriage equality, following on the heels of Rhode Island and Delaware.

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House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt acknowledged that views on gay marriage are changing, but said the bill's sponsors stood to alienate thousands of Minnesotans who still believe in the male-female definition ofmarriage.

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"Hearts and minds are changing on this," Daudt said. "But Minnesotans are still divided."

That could be seen outside the House chamber, where supporters and opponents of the bill stood shoulder to shoulder and chanted with equal vigor. Gay marriage backers dressed in orange T-Shirts and held signs that read, "I Support The Freedom to Marry." Behind them, opponents held up bright pink signs that simply read, "Vote No."

Among the demonstrators was Grace McBride, 27, a nurse from St. Paul. She said she and her partner felt compelled to be there to watch history unfold. She said she hopes to get married "as soon as I can" if the bill becomes law. The legislation would allow her to do so starting Aug. 1.

"I have thought about my wedding since I was a little girl," she said.

On the other side of the divide, Galina Komar, a recent Ukrainian immigrant who lives in Bloomington, brought her four-year-old daughter and one-year-old son to the Capitol to express her religious concerns.

"I do believe in God, and I believe God already created the perfect way to have a family," Komar said.

Eleven other states allow gay marriages — including Rhode Island and Delaware, which approved laws in the past week.

Iowa allows gay marriages because of a 2009 court ruling. Leaders in Illinois — the only Midwestern state other than Minnesota with a Democratic-led statehouse — say that state is close to having the votes to approve a law too.

But most other states surrounding Minnesota have constitutional bans against same-sex weddings, so the change might not spread to the nation's heartland nearly as quickly as it has on the coasts and in New England.

The Minnesota push for gay marriage grew from last fall's successful campaign to defeat the constitutional amendment that would have banned it. Minnesota was the first state to turn back such an amendment, after more than two dozen states passed one over more than a decade.

The same election put Democrats in full control of state government for the first time in more than two decades, a perfect scenario for gay marriage supporters to swiftly pursue legalization. The bill cleared committees in both chambers in March, at the same time a succession of national polls showed opposition togay marriage falling away nationally.

"There are kids being raised by grandparents, single parents, two moms or two dads," said Rep. Laurie Halverson, a Democrat from a suburb south of St. Paul. "Some of those folks are my friends. And we talk about the same things as parents. We talk about large piles of laundry, and how much it hurts to step on a Lego. That's what we do, because we're all families."

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