Archived Story

Citizens are searching for gay marriage votes at Capitol

Published 6:19am Friday, April 19, 2013

ST. PAUL — Ann Turnbull, a retired state worker with a lesbian partner of 36 years, brought a message to the Capitol Thursday for Minnesota lawmakers who say it’s too soon to legalize gay marriage.

“I’m getting old. This needs to happen this year,” Turnbull told her state senator, Republican Carrie Ruud, in a brief discussion just off the Senate floor. She and her partner want the full legal protections of marriage, Turnbull said, “and I want it to happen in my lifetime.”

Hundreds of gay marriage supporters swarmed the Capitol in hopes of winning over reluctant lawmakers for a lobby day sponsored by groups funding the gay marriage push.

Large crowds gathered on the lawn outside, clustered under umbrellas in driving wind and sleet, to hear Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton argue that Minnesotans both straight and gay have “a constitutional right and an American right to marry who you love.”

But a vote this session is not certain. Republicans, including Ruud, are almost uniformly opposed. And many Democrats in rural districts have been reluctant for fear of alienating constituents.

“It’s a tough issue up in my neck of the woods,” said Rep. Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, a retired teacher. His northwestern Minnesota district voted more than 60 percent in favor of last fall’s gay marriage ban, and Erickson said only one out of every five letters or emails he gets about gay marriage asks him to support it.