On Thursday the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to change Minnesota law to recognize marriages between same sex couples. The Minnesota Senate will likely have a vote on the issue on Monday, and it is expected to pass. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bill. Barring a huge groundswell against it in the coming few days, it looks like the change is going to happen.
This is a change many did not expect to come so swiftly after Minnesota voters last year defeated a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman. The proposal to recognize gay marriage was made early in this current session, riding on that amendment vote and on the DFL gaining control of the Legislature, but it seemed unlikely to make it through the Legislature as tax and budget issues took precedence.
Yet, here is Minnesota, poised to become the 12 state in the union to recognize gay marriage. It is not, as many feared, being foisted on us by a small group of liberal, rogue judges. This is legislative action taken by our elected officials who are acting after doing a lot of listening to their constituents and a lot of personal soul searching.
We know there are a lot of people who oppose the idea, and are afraid of the consequences. Families will crumble, they say. Marriage will become passe. Children will be raised without a two-parent, father-and-mother household. Sadly, the fact is that family structure is under stress, but not necessarily because of gay culture. More and more children are born out of wedlock, and the number has been climbing in the last couple of decades. The divorce rate has fallen a bit in the past ten years, but so has the marriage rate.
The legislation that the House passed contained stronger protections for churches that oppose the idea of same-sex marriage. They cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriages.
Some fear that those who continue to oppose same-sex marriage will be branded as "bigots." Name calling certainly can be a problem with as volatile an issue as this, and both sides are guilty of it.
The debate in the House Thursday was remarkable for its respectful tone. Proponents and opponents alike spoke their pieces calmly, with obvious emotion, but with respect for each other and their differing opinions.
We hope people throughout the state can do the same. We have to, if we want to remain a civil society.