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Sen. Scott Newman of Hutchinson, right, looks on Tuesday as Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis tells a Senate committee about his bill to allow gay marriage. Newman, a Republican, opposes the bill. Forum News Service photo by Don Davis

Advocates optimistic as Minnesota Legislature poised for votes on same-sex marriage measure

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ST. PAUL — Gay marriage supporters feel victory in the air.

Their confidence is high as Minnesota state representatives plan to vote on overturning an existing same-sex marriage ban on Thursday, with senators following in a few days.

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“We’ve felt pretty good in the Senate for a long time,” bill sponsor Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said after the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday passed his measure on a split voice vote.

Even gay marriage opponent Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said the bill likely will pass the Senate. But he expressed doubt that it could make it through the House.

When Democratic House leaders scheduled their vote for Thursday, it signaled they think they have the votes to pass the measure. House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, has said for months that he will not bring the measure up for a full House vote unless he knows the votes are there.

The Senate could take up the bill as early as Saturday.

Even with bill supporters expressing confidence it will pass, they are keeping up their campaign, including raising money.

“We are so close to achieving the dream of thousands of same-sex couples to legally marry the person they love, to protect their families and to take responsibility for each other,” Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom of Minnesotans United said. “We can’t stop now, because we aren’t there yet.”

Carlbom’s organization enlisted just-released Vikings punter Chris Kluwe to send his own fund-raising email.

Kluwe wrote: “I’m sure going to miss the land of 10,000 lakes, but I know you’ll keep working to make Minnesota a better place for ALL families.”

The House vote will come six months and three days after Minnesotans defeated an attempt to write into the state Constitution a ban on gay marriage, the first major defeat in the country for the anti-gay marriage campaign.

Since then, a national movement has grown to allow gay marriage, with a Tuesday vote in the Delaware Senate the latest action.

While earlier public opinion polls showed a majority of Minnesotans oppose gay marriage, that has been changing as the most recent one indicated 51 percent now back the idea.

Bills to overturn the existing law banning gay marriage have been discussed for years, but had little chance of getting past Republican opposition until Democrats took control of the House, Senate and governor’s office this year.

Ingebrigtsen warned that if the GOP regains control, there will be efforts to restore the ban.

“I know there is no place for the Bible in the Legislature,” the senator said, but he and others who oppose gay marriage will continue to fight the proposition.

Minnesota gay marriage opponents on Monday brought people in from New York to spell out problems they encountered after that state approved same-sex marriage.

They said businesses that refuse to deal with gay couples are getting into legal trouble.

Dibble said religion-related organizations would be exempt from his bill. However, business would not be allowed to treat gay couples different than straight ones.

Gay marriage opponents say they remain confident.

“Right now, we believe the votes are not there to pass,” said Executive Director Jason Adkins of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, an anti-gay marriage leader.

If rural Democratic lawmakers vote in favor of the bill, Adkins said, they will go against their districts’ views on the issue and face of the possibility of losing the next election.

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