ST. PAUL, Minn. Thousands of eager citizens filled the Capitol of Minnesota for an event organized jointly by the Minnesota Family Council and several faith groups, to support the proposed constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage and civil unions in the state, March 22, 2004.
The gathering, among the largest of its kind in state history, was scheduled to encourage the state Senate to pull the bill out of a committee and put it to an immediate floor vote. However, the Senate voted 35-31 against the direct floor vote when they met Monday afternoon.
Nonetheless, the enthusiastic crowd remained optimistic, planning to return to the Capitol of Wednesday when the House is expected to pass the bill.
``You guys amaze me,'' Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, House sponsor of the legislation, shouted to the crowd. ``You're doing a great job.''
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on Friday. If both the House and Senate approves the amendment, the bill would be placed on this Novembers ballot, allowing Minnesotans to explicitly ban same-sex marriages.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty called marriage between a man and a woman ``a key to our success as a society and as a community'' and said supporting traditional marriage was the mainstream position in Minnesota.
``This should be a decision of the people - not activist judges,'' he said.
Another speaker at the rally, Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater agreed, It's imperative that we allow the people of Minnesota to have a voice in the fundamental reordering of society.
Other speakers emphasized the moral need for such an amendment.
``Nothing is legally right which is morally wrong, said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, who mentioned the saying which is painted on one of the walls in the Capitol.
Rep. Lynn Wardlow, agreed, saying, ``If the fabric of our society is destroyed, what's the point after that?''
Debra Sivula, a 47-year-old mother of six from Hugo who was at the rally agreed, saying, I believe it needs to be one man and one woman. How can we teach our children what's right and what's wrong if we start in the wrong?''
Minnesota law already bans same-sex marriage, as do the constitutions of 37 other states. However, many have called for a more explicit amendment to the constitution that would clearly prohibit homosexual unions in the state, in preparation for what may happen in the Massachusetts court this May. Massachusettss court voted last November to legalize homosexual marriage by this May.
The democrat-led Senate is the main battleground for the bill. The House is easily expected to accept the amendment on Wednesday.
Therefore, to secure a clear victory at the Senate, Bachmann urged the crowd to press their representatives on the issue and even offered to write press releases for citizens who want to run against those who voted against bringing the bill to a vote on Monday.
``This is within our grasp,'' she said. ``This is so possible. ... All we're looking for are two more votes.''