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Republican Rep. Introduces Civil Union Bill

Posted at: 04/03/2013 10:42 PM
Updated at: 04/04/2013 3:28 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- As lawmakers consider legalizing gay marriage in Minnesota, a new bill is put into the mix. One some call a compromise, others call a copout.

A Minnesota Republican is introducing a bill to establish civil unions. Something he says is an alternative to same sex-marriage. The lawmaker who introduced the gay marriage bill disagrees calling civil unions insufficient and “separate but equal.” Each state that has civil unions defines them a little differently.

It's been a split issue whether or not to legalize gay marriage. Now, there's a new bill being called a compromise.

"If everyone could allow civil unions and allow churches to perform marriages, that increase the number of people that support this effort by 50 percent in my district," said Democratic Representative Kim Norton.

However, a civil union and marriage are far from the same thing. "There’s no two ways about it. There are many gay and lesbian families out there and to not honor their status as a family makes it very difficult for them," said family attorney Jill Frieders. She says there are certain limitations to a civil union.

"There are all sorts of benefits that go to marriage such as a joint tax return, certain Federal benefits," said Frieders.

"There are some complications with how you overlap with Federal law with a civil union bill and those things would have to be ironed out," said Rep. Norton.

So, what happens to assets? "In a marriage a couple acquires assets and shares them and the estates mutually grow, what would that happen with a civil union, I don't know," said Frieders.

Also, if the relationship were to fail, a married couple can get divorced. “We don't have a mechanism for dissolving a civil union," said Frieders.

Still those behind the bill say it's a way for churches to keep their definition of marriage, and still acknowledge the  relationship. "A civil union would recognize a legal union that would be bestowed on a couple by the state and then we would leave the term marriage for the church," said Rep. Norton.

The gay marriage bill has yet to hit the Senate and House floors. The civil union bill still hasn't requested a hearing.