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DFLers propose bill to do away with state Defense of Marriage Act

Minnesota Democrats introduced a bill on Monday that would repeal the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits same-sex couples from benefiting from the rights and responsibilities of marriage. The bill, the Marriage and Family Protection Act, was offered just as heated debate at the Capitol continues over a proposed constitutional amendment that would write a ban on gay marriage into the state constitution.

“Marriage is a legal institution recognized by the state to promote stable relationships and to protect people in those relationships and their children,” the bill states. “Minnesota’s current marriage law discriminates against same-sex couples, denying them and their families rights and responsibilities, including the right to pension and Social Security survivor’s benefits, the right to family and medical leave, and numerous other benefits and obligations. The state has an interest in encouraging stable relationships regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the partners and the entire community benefits when couples undertake the mutual obligations of marriage.”

The bill removes language from Minnesota statutes stemming from the 1997 Defense of Marriage Act. Instead, statutes that refer to “husband” and “wife” would also refer to “spouse.”

Doug Benson of Marriage Equality Minnesota, which helped draft a similar bill last year, said the bill isn’t likely to go anywhere.

“With little chance of passage this biennium, it is largely a symbolic gesture, but symbols are important,” he said. “We are pushing forward toward equality in the face of our oppressors’ onslaught,” he added, referring to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

The bill introduction coincides with a rally opposing the constitutional gay marriage ban hosted by LGBT group, OutFront Minnesota.

On the House side, the bill was sponsored by Reps. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis, Diane Loeffler of Minneapolis, Erin Murphy of St. Paul, Carolyn Laine of Columbia Heights, Mindy Greiling of Roseville, Tina Liebling of Rochester, Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis, Ryan Winkler of St. Louis Park, Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis, John Lesch of St. Paul, Carlos Mariani of St. Paul, Michael Paymar of St. Paul, Jim Davnie of Minneapolis, Bill Hilty of Finlayson, Bobby Jo Champion of Minneapolis, Thomas Huntley of Duluth, Alice Hausman of St. Paul, Kerry Gauthier of Duluth, Rena Moran of St. Paul, Sheldon Johnson of St. Paul, Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis, Linda Slocum of Richfield and Marion Greene of Minneapolis.

Sens. John Marty of Rosevile, Linda Higgins of Minneapolis, Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, Patricia Torres Ray of Minneapolis, and Mary Jo McGuire of St. Paul.

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