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Reality Check: Gay Marriage And The 2013 Legislature

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota's Democratic leaders don't want anyone to think the 2013 Legislature is not going to vote on legalizing gay marriage.

But don't get the idea that there will be a vote, either.

In fact: Party leaders say only they will "continue the conversation" from the November election, in which Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment which would have had the effect of banning gay marriage.

The incoming Democratic Speaker of the House, Paul Thissen, said he thinks "the conversation is going to continue to evolve, and there will be proposals. People have already announced that there will be proposals that will be debated or, at least, introduced, and we will have that discussion going forward."

Democrats are super-sensitive, because taking up gay marriage would leave them open to charges of "over-reaching."

That's exactly what Democrats accused Republicans of doing when the GOP held the majority, debating gay marriage, voter ID, right to work, abortion, guns, and more.

Two separate analyses of the marriage amendment vote suggest that it's not at all clear that legalizing gay marriage would pass -- even if it comes up for a vote next year.

And most-- if not all-- of the yes votes may need to come from Democrats.

One analysis of marriage amendment vote patterns by the Associated Press showed that some 56 members of the incoming Legislature "would be forced to choose between the prevailing tide in their party and the preference of their constituents. The data would undoubtedly be used by both sides to exert public and political pressure on a highly controversial matter".

A study by the left-leaning political website LeftMN found that 29 Senate Democrats were elected in districts that voted NO on the gay marriage ban: 5 short of the votes needed to pass.

In the House: 58 Democrats elected in districts that voted No: 10 short.

According LeftMN, "The basic numbers break down as follows; 81% of the votes needed in the house are DFLers who represent districts that voted against the Marriage amendment. In the Senate that number was 85%. In the House the 13 votes needed in addition to that 81%, represents 33% of the in-between representatives. In the Senate the five votes needed represented 28% of the in-between Senators."

Incoming Senate Majority Leader, Tom Bakk, who's from a northern Minnesota district in which the amendment was narrowly defeated, says the vote wasn't necessarily about gay marriage. It was about keeping it out of the Constitution.

"I think the more pressing thing probably, this session, is the budget," Bakk said. "I do think we still need to have a pretty significant conversation around the state on that subject. I think the conversation during the election was about whether we put it in the constitution; it wasn't about where the public was at on the issue."

Meanwhile, Minnesota Democratic leaders say they are watching closely the United States Supreme Court, which announced last week it will hear two gay marriage cases and rule on their constitutionality.

A Supreme Court ruling could make Minnesota's gay marriage debate moot, but that decision is not expected until late spring or early summer -- after the Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to adjourn.

Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

Associated Press Analysis of Marriage Amendment Voting Patterns

LeftMN Analyses of Marriage Amendment Voting Patterns

MN Secretary of State Election Results

New Democratic Majority Fights Against "Overreach"

US Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Cases

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