Minnesota freshman state Sen. Branden Petersen (R) said is ready to buck his existing party line and co-sponsor a bill legalizing marriage equality in the state.
“It’s only a matter of time before same sex marriage is legal,” Petersen told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I thought it was important to engage the issue now, and when we do it, do it right, and that there’s some perspective from the people I represent in that.”
The move represents a policy change for Petersen, one of the conservative lawmakers who put an amendment banning marriage equality on the ballot in the November 2012 elections. The bill, Amendment 1, was narrowly voted down.
At his request, the bill’s main sponsor, Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) state Sen. Scott Dibble has agreed to add provisions allowing for financial guarantees for children in same-sex marriages in case of a divorce, and for religious leaders to have the ability to opt out of officiating LGBT weddings. The gesture allows Petersen to be the state’s first Republican lawmaker to publicly support marriage equality, a move he said would clear the way for more party mates to follow suit, which advocates acknowledge will be crucial.
“Republicans are weighing this issue,” said Jake Loesch, a spokesperson for Minnesotans United for All Families and a GOP member. “As this conversation continues in the Legislature, there will be Republicans who will vote for marriage.”
Though an amendment that would have banned same sex marriages failed at the polls last November, the majority of voters in Petersen’s district supported it. He said he is prepared to face the risk of being voted out over his support of Dibble’s bill.
“They are generally not single-issue voters,” Petersen said of his constituents in the state’s 35th district, which covers part of Anoka County in the Twin Cities area. “But if push came to shove and that’s the way it had to be, then I am fine with that.”
However, some DFL party members from the state’s rural areas have indicated they would also rebel as the issue returns to the political forefront.
“I feel strongly in my beliefs that it is not something I would support,” state Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL) told the newspaper. “It’s a sacrament in our church. I’m Catholic.”
[Image via Branden Petersen for state Senate Facebook page]