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House debates marriage definition

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ST. PAUL -- A House committee Monday approved 10-7 a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage.

While state law already defines a marriage as being between one man and one woman, proponents want the provision in the Constitution because it is more difficult to change than a law.

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Law professor Dale Carpenter of the University of Minnesota, calling himself a conservative Republican, argued in the Civil Law Committee against the amendment, saying it could "ignite a new round in the culture war. ... We should not be starting fires in Minnesota; we should be putting them out together."

An expensive advertising campaign for and against the amendment, which would be on the 2012 ballot, would waste money that should be spent on "our pressing needs," Carpenter said.

Those who like the amendment, however, said God supports a one-man, one-woman marriage definition.

The Rev. Per Nilsen of Rosemount and Hastings Lutheran churches said that is a "clear definition in the Bible."

"The impact on religious freedom will be very real," Nilsen added.

Bishop Paul Sirba of the Duluth Diocese said that other religions than Christianity oppose gay marriage.

However, the bishop said, gays should have the right to live and love without discrimination. "Persons with same sex attractions are our sisters and brothers."

The amendment would take the gay-marriage decision out of legislators' hands.

"The time has come for society to decide the future of marriage," Sirba said.

Bruce Ause of Red Wing, who has a lesbian daughter, said that the state must "protect all Minnesotans equally," but the proposed amendment is "one of dividing and conquering."

Jeff Wilfahrt of Rosemount, whose gay son died in Iraqi fighting, said supporters of the amendment "march lockstep with a denial of reason." He said veterans and those still in the military are "not going to take kindly" to denying a group's civil rights.

The proposed amendment also is progressing through the Senate.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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