Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, one of just three DFLers to vote Monday against legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota, said today the four-hour debate was heartfelt and moving but did not shake his longstanding belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
"It actually wasn't as tough as a lot of people might have thought," he said of his vote, which put him on the losing side of a 37-30 decision. Minnesota will become the 12th state in the nation to extend the right to marry to gay couples when Gov. Mark Dayton signs the measure later today.
"It's partly because I've been pretty consistent on where I stood on the issue," said Stumpf, who has represented his northwest Minnesota district in the Senate since 1982.
"I believe in the traditions of marriage," he said. "I've been consistent over the years that marriage is a respected institution, one that's sanctioned by religious organizations and has a history as long as any institution on Earth. That's the root of my beliefs."
Much of the floor discussion Monday concerned whether the same-sex marriage bill was a question of human rights, Stumpf said.
"Definitely my sympathy is with the equal rights of every individual," he said. "They need to be protected. But there is a fine line between what is a right for every person and religious freedom. This bill violates the longstanding history and traditions of religious rights, and that's where I come down -- in defense of the religious freedom of our institutions and people."
Language included in the bill meant to safeguard the rights of religious and other institutions did not go far enough, Stumpf said.
While the floor debate Monday did not cause him to waver, "when the discussion went to personal kinds of experiences and stories, it's pretty touching for anyone who's listening," he said.
"I've been married for 41 years. I treasure that. I've been blessed with a good marriage. And when someone describes how they felt, not being able to have the same marriage in a family like their mom and dad did, and both are men or both are women -- OK, I understood that, and most people can understand that feeling. It's always very touching and persuasive, and you do feel a tug when you hear the individual stories.
"But I find it very difficult to understand how two people of the same sex can have the same kind of fulfilling experience that two people of the opposite sex can have when they get married, have children and raise children," he said. "I realize they may be able to adopt children and raise them. But it's hard for me to say they're going to have the same wonderful experience."
A personal vote
He said his district "was probably 60 percent, in areas close to 80 percent" opposed to same-sex marriage, "but that really wasn't the reason" for his vote.
"It certainly was a factor, but my decision was based on my personal belief, my religious belief and my experiences over the years."
He said there were several supporters of the bill from his district who were at the Capitol Monday for the debate and vote, and they sent him notes urging him to vote yes.
"Most of the calls and emails I've received on this came before, and most of them were opposed," he said.
He said he felt no pressure from party leaders to vote yes.
"It's common knowledge the Democrats have been favorable to doing this," Stumpf said. "I am a small piece of that caucus. I'm a minority when it comes to some issues.
"There was no caucus position, but obviously when you have three out of 39 not supporting (one Republican senator joined 36 DFLers in voting for the bill), you're going to have a lot of discussion. To the credit of the leadership, that (applying pressure) was not done. They said they would not take a caucus position. It was an individual position.
"Everyone knew where I stood," he said, chuckling. "Maybe that's why they left me alone."
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