The Minnesota House passed a measure on Thursday to ban same-sex marriages in the state, sending the proposed constitutional amendment to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate.
Following several hours of debate, the House voted 77 to 56 in favor of the amendment, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and prohibits any other types of unions between same-sex partners.
Supporters of the bill applauded the vote, saying that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect the states 1996 Defense of Marriage Act from court challenges and activist judges.
Opponents of the ban called it discriminatory and particularly criticized the restriction of marriage and its legal equivalent to the definition of one man and one woman. They argued that the vague language could restrict the rights of same-sex partners. For example, the amendment could be interpreted by employers to deny benefits to domestic partners.
Efforts to remove the contentious words from the amendment were defeated. Supporters of the bill ensured that the focus was on protecting marriage and that the bill would not affect peoples rights.
The proposed amendment must receive approval by the Senate to be placed on the 2006 ballot for a public vote. Last year, a marriage amendment was passed by the House but failed to receive a vote in the Senate.
A similar bill introduced in the South Carolina House moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, and could go up for a public vote as early as next year. Kansas residents will vote on a state gay marriage ban next Tuesday, and similar bans are pending in several states.