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Local legislators stand on opposing sides of historic bill

A bill in support of same sex marriage passed in the state House of Representatives with a vote of 75-59 and the state Senate with a vote of 37-30, and Gov. Mark Dayton was to sign the bill Tuesday, May 14. The law would become effective in August.

Area legislators stood on opposite sides of the debate, though the split was along party lines.

District 9 state Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Cass County, and District 9A state Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore, voted against the bill, while District 5 state Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, and District 5B Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, voted in favor of the bill.

These legislators’ districts include parts of Cass County and Pine River, Backus and Hackensack.

“I believe in equality,” Anzelc said. “I believe that this issue is moving toward acceptance by Minnesotans, and there are private family relationships and reasons that motivated me.”

Gazelka, on the other hand, said the bill in its current form does not protect religious freedom.

“Both sides are deeply entrenched in their value systems and you need to find a way to protect both. Had it failed I would have said we need to provide more basic rights for homosexuals living in relationships. That’s kind of where we’re at, at this point, because religious liberties were not protected,” Gazelka said.

Gazelka and District 10 Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, used Catholic adoption charities, florists, wedding photographers, wedding venues and family councilors as examples of different groups that might be hurt by this bill.

“This session is virtually over, but I’m definitely going to continue to move forward with legislation and raise awareness for this area because it is a serious concern. It will be for many people,” Gazelka said.

Proponents of the bill say it protects the interests of both sides by distinguishing between religious marriage and civil marriage, thus allowing churches to make their own decisions based on religious beliefs.

Anzelc and other legislators from the area say the bill met with a great deal of respectful discussion by both the Senate and the House.

“As far as the House of Representatives is concerned, the debate, the discussion was civil and respectful,” Anzelc said. “Very good arguments on all sides of the issue. The final vote was bipartisan with four Republican members joining the majority and two DFL members joining the minority. It was civil and respectful and it was done the way lawmaking should be done, which is with respect for everybody’s opinions.”

Minnesota will be the 12th state to allow same-sex marriages. Representative Mark Anderson and Senator Tom Saxhaug were unavailable for comment.