GOP Lawmaker Poised to Sponsor Gay Marriage Bill

Posted at: 02/20/2013 6:37 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- When the question to ban same sex marriage was put before voters in Minnesota, it was defeated. Now one of the Republican Senators who pushed for that vote is having a change of heart.

Support for legalizing gay marriage is expanding in Minnesota at least when it comes to lawmakers. Republican Representative Branden Peterson of Andover took an unexpected step across party lines on Wednesday.

Political Analyst, Chad Israelson, says it's a big deal.

"Yeah that is significant, because what it does is it breaks us out of this sort of one party is for it one party's against it," said Chad Israelson.

Petersen is the first Republican to signal a yes vote for the gay marriage bill that is expected to be introduced at the Capitol this year.

"It's a shock and surprise that somebody on the GOP side would actually sign on to the marriage equality bill," said Vangie Castro, Chair of Gay and Lesbian Community Services in Rochester.

However, local members of the Republican party aren't so thrilled.

"Branden was a State Representative last year and supported in fact with his vote the marriage amendment, so it's a surprise and personally a disappointment," said Rochester Representative Mike Benson.

Even with the support of a GOP lawmaker, Representative Mike Benson feels it won't make much of a difference.

"I still believe that the majority of Minnesotans believe marriage is a right that is given to people who are of different sex, man and a women, one man one women," said Benson.

but backers of same sex marriage say Petersen's support is a key step forward to passing the bill.

"I hope that his leadership will show to his party that you don't necessarily have to toe the line but hopefully that you can you know look deep inside of you and do what's right for all Minnesotans," said Castro.

"As Peterson said it's an issue that eventually we assume is going to happen and you sort of want to be on the right side of history on that," said Israelson.

While Representative Petersen says he'll sign a measure to allow same sex marriage in Minnesota, he also says there's a few things that need to be addressed before he signs. That includes making sure religious leaders are exempt from performing same sex marriages if it's against their beliefs.