A state Senate committee passed a bill Friday setting a statewide vote next year on banning gay marriage in the Minnesota Constitution, a goal that eluded conservative activists for years but got sudden new life this week with Republicans now in control of the Legislature.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill 8-4, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. Passage by the full Senate and the House appears likely with solid Republican majorities in both chambers, meaning voters in 2012 would be asked to enshrine in Minnesota’s Constitution a prohibition on same-sex marriage that already exists in state law.
Supporters said the constitutional definition of marriage is important enough to give the final say to voters, rather than elected officials or judges. Critics said the bill reflects a narrow religious agenda that doesn’t belong in the state Constitution and that a months-long, divisive debate will distract from more important issues facing the state.