Minnesota Republican May Be First to Sponsor Gay Marriage

A Republican senator in Minnesota’s legislature is poised to co-sponsor a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, joining a growing number of state lawmakers from his party to do so.

Branden Petersen will co-sponsor the bill by Senator Scott Dibble of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party if certain conditions are met, said Petersen’s legislative aide, Alex Kharam. Religious leaders could choose not to participate in gay ceremonies and children of homosexual married couples would be guaranteed the same financial protections as those of heterosexual married couples, Kharam said.

“I strongly believe that true freedom means freedom for everyone,” Petersen said in an e-mailed statement. “Continuing to exclude certain people from marriage simply because of who they are is not in the best interest of the future of Minnesota.”

Republicans have voted to grant homosexuals the right to wed in the past, such as four New York state senators did in 2011. Now, some are taking their support a step further by co-sponsoring the bills, which are at odds with the national party’s platform. Senator Chris Ottiano in Rhode Island and four state representatives in Wyoming have done so this year.

The latest draft of the Minnesota bill includes the conditions Petersen has asked for and could be introduced as soon as Feb. 25, Dibble said in an interview. Democrats control the legislature and the governor’s office.

Voter Rejection

Petersen, 27, was a Lowe’s Cos. sales manager living in the Minneapolis suburb of Andover when he was elected to the state House in 2010. He joined his Republican colleagues in putting on the ballot a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, which voters rejected last year. He is also the son-in-law of a man who’s been in a gay relationship for the past 20 years, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

On the federal level, three Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors to the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal a federal law that blocks gays from claiming the same federal tax breaks and other marriage benefits that opposite-sex spouses receive.

Same-sex couples can now marry in nine states and the District of Columbia. Minnesota is one of six states -- along with Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island -- where lawmakers are considering or revisiting the issue this year, according to Freedom to Marry, a New York-based group that helps and funds local gay-rights organizations. All except Minnesota already allow civil unions, and none let voters overturn legislation through referendums.

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