Marriage Equality Supporters Hail Historic Senate Hearing
March 2, 2010
MARRIAGE-EQUALITY SUPPORTERS HAIL HISTORIC HEARING ON MARRIAGE-RELATED BILLS IN MINNESOTA SENATE
(St. Paul) - For only the second time since considering a divisive proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit legal recognition for same-sex couples, a state legislative committee will hold a hearing on bills that would extend such re cognition, announced Amy Johnson, Executive Director of OutFront Minnesota, the state's leading direct-service and public-policy agency for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community and its allies. The state's first such hearing took place on February 22.
"Legislators have seen that there is strong support for extending legal recognition to same-sex couples and their families by ending discrimination in marriage," says Johnson. "Minnesotans know that marriage equality next door in Canada and now Iowa is not a threat to them or their families. In fact, polls show that the majority of Americans support creation of the sorts of legal frameworks and protections for same-sex couples. Today's informational hearing in the Senate is a significant step toward ending this form of discrimination."
OutFront Minnesota supports three bills that will be discussed at the hearing on Tuesday, March 1, 2010, in the State Capitol Building in St. Paul. If passed, the first two bills, sponsored by Senators John Marty and Scott Dibble respectively, would grant same-sex couples full access to legal marriage in Minnesota. The third bill, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, is more narrowly-focused on extending legal recognition to valid marriages same-sex couples enter into in other states. .
The debate on whether to provide marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Minnesota has drawn attention to the inequities same-sex couples and their families face in the absence of legal recognition, says OutFront Minnesota Public Policy Director Monica Meyer. "As a result of dramatic developments elsewhere, including Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Washington DC, the discussion has shifted quickly from whether to recognize same-sex couples legally to how and when to do so," says Meyer.
For David Wehde and Michael Blanch, a married couple living in Minneapolis, the topic hits close to home. "Being able to marry has meant a great deal to us and to our families," says Wehde. "We are married in our hearts and in the state of Iowa, but once we stepped back into Minnesota, we were considered strangers in our states laws. Recognizing the legal validity of our marriage will help us provide for one another in case of emergency in ways not currently permitted under state law."
Prohibiting same-sex couples from marriage hurts some of Minnesota's families while helping no one," says Ann Swanson, an outspoken supporter of marriage equality. "As a parent who has two daughters who are lesbians, it breaks my heart to see my children singled out for second-class treatment in our laws. I want my daughters to be able one day to marry the person they love and want to spend their lives with. It's that simple."
Support for marriage equality has emerged as a theme among key religious leaders in Minnesota as well. "As a minister, I have had the opportunity to celebrate the unions of same-sex couples in my congregation," says Reverend Brad Froslee, Calvary Lutheran ELCA. "While I know the challenging road these couples have traveled to get to that point, I am overjoyed to be a part of their ceremony. At the same time, I am angry and saddened by the challenges they continue to face due to Minnesota's discriminatory marriage laws, and my approach to ministry calls me to stand with them to seek reform."
While the March 2 hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Mee Moua, is for informational purposes only and no votes are expected, Meyer praises the legislature for examining the topic and beginning the process of leading Minnesota toward marriage equality. "This problem won't be solved this year," says Meyer, "but we are optimistic that this hearing is an important and meaningful step toward achieving that solution in the near future."
For further information, contact:
Amy Johnson, (612) 767-7660
Monica Meyer, (612) 817-3480