Some Minnesota political party leaders are turning up pressure on legislators to legalize same-sex marriage in the state this year.

“This is about what kind of state we want for the future,” said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic Party. “What kind of statement do we want to make when a whole swath of society is treated like second-class citizens? We know the freedom to marry is a critical step to a better Minnesota.”

Minnesota legislators likely are weeks away from a vote on a measure to legalize same-sex marriage, making the state the 10th to authorize such unions. It is not clear that gay and lesbian supporters have the necessary votes in the Legislature, so several party leaders were applying an extra bit of pressure as legislators wrestle with the issue.

Along with Martin, the event drew leaders of the Independence, Libertarian and Green parties. They all expressed strong support for same-sex marriage, and rejected a new compromise proposal to allow civil unions for same-sex couples.

The new leader of Minnesota Republican Party, former legislator Keith Downey, did not attend the event.

The issue is largely coming down to a partisan one at the Capitol, where DFLers control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. Most Democrats support same-sex marriage and many Republicans say they will vote against it. In a vote expected to be excruciatingly close, the real fight now is for those final few lawmakers who haven't made up their minds.

Recent polls show Minnesotans deeply divided over the issue, with most residents not wanting legislators to legalize gay marriage.

Nationally, there’s been a dramatic shift on the issue and support for same-sex marriage is growing. In recent weeks, several prominent Republicans announced support for same-same marriage.

Martin encouraged Democrats who are on the fence to vote to legalize marriage even if they fear it might cost them re-election.

“It’s the issue of our time and we need to stand up and fight for that,” Martin said.

Party leaders urged residents to contact their legislators and urge them to vote to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Same-sex couples in our state participate in the civic and business culture in equal measures to their peers, they work hard and contribute equally,” said Matt Lewis, spokesman for the Independence Party of Minnesota. “And they should be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”

That’s a winning message for all parties, Martin said.

“That’s the narrative that we hopes comes out of this legislative session,” he said. “Whether you are straight, you’re gay, you’re old, you’re young, you live in greater Minnesota or you live in the metro area, that what the Legislature did was help all Minnesotans, not just a few.”


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