MARSHALL - One of the most anticipated bills in years will soon be coming before the Minnesota House, and it has nothing to do with budgets, bonding or stadiums.
Democratic House leaders have scheduled a vote on same-sex marriage for Thursday. The announcement and pending vote comes two years after a GOP-controlled House voted to put a constitutional ban on gay marriage on the ballot, where it met a surprising demise. Despite the defeat of the constitutional amendment, same-sex couples are still prohibited from marrying under Minnesota state law.
It's not the first divisive issue to come before the Legislature, but it's arguably the most controversial.
"It definitely signals a change of direction in our state," District 16A House Rep. Chris Swedzinski said. "It's a very controversial bill. This has obviously had a lot of rigorous debate the last two years since it was put on the ballot."
Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said he will not support the bill, and while he admits same-sex marriage is not a light issue by any means, he said there are many others out there that shouldn't take a back seat.
"This is one of many issues on people's minds," he said. "From the people I've talked to, my constituents, first and foremost is, they're worried about jobs and the economy, especially with the tax increases that are being pushed through. Right now we're debating the energy bill that will cost taxpayers a billion dollars. We have so many issues on so many fronts."
Swedzinski said this is a bill that has both a political and personal spin, but he's not sure if the way legislators vote will have any effect on future elections.
"This is an issue that hits personally," he said. "It's about where you are from, your system of beliefs and how that translates into a vote. This is definitely a change in direction for our states, and a lot of people are concerned about what it means to this state in the long term."
"Unlike a lot of what goes on at the Capitol, this is about people and their personal lives," said Jake Loesch, communications director with Minnesotans United, the group fighting to legalize same-sex marriage. "This is about families, this is about couples and real Minnesotans who are asking to be treated the same way as everyone else."
The House needs 68 votes for the bill to advance to the Senate. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he will support any bill that would allow gay marriage in Minnesota.
Loesch said Minnesotans United is optimistic the House will come up with votes needed for passage of the bill.