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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Supporters of gay marriage at the State Capitol plan to push ahead in January with a bill that would make gay marriage legal in the Minnesota.

The move comes on the heels of an epic fight over strengthening the ban on same-sex unions.

"I think the time is right. I think people are ready for it," Sen. John Marty, a Roseville Democrat who has spent 25 years in the State Senate, told KARE.

"I think we've had some wonderful conversations around the state, and people's minds are changing."

Sen.Marty will introduce a bill that would do away with Minnesota's current Defense of Marriage Act, which passedeasily in 1997, anddefines marriage as solely a unionbetween one man and one woman.

The exact language hasn't been drafted yet, but Marty's goal is to make Minnesota government neutral when it comes to the gender of the two persons who are being wed.

"We don't wait to give people their rights until everybody says okie-dokie we're fine with it," Martyremarked.

"We give people rights now. We've waited too long already and the public actually did ratify what we're trying to do."

Marty was referring to November's referendum on the Marriage Amendment, a failedattempt to put the one-man-one-woman language in the State Constitution.

Thatballot measuregarnered only 47.4 percent of the vote, short ofthe required 50 percent. The "no" votes outnumbered the "yes" votes by 11,000 out of 2.9 million ballots cast.

Both sides poured millions of dollars, plustens of thousand of hours of grassroots efforts into the public debate for 18 months leading up to the 2012 election.

Minnesotans United for all Families, the campaign that organized opposition to the amendment,argued that coupleswho want to make a commitment to one another shouldn't be impeded by the government.

Thegroup's othermajorargumentwas thatplacing the state's existing ban on gay marriage into the Constitution would make it more difficult for future generations to legalize same-gender unions.

Autumn Leva ofMinnesota for Marriage, the group that campaigned fortheamendment, assertedthe outcome of thatreferendum should not be perceived as momentum for same-sex marriage.

"A 'no' vote on the Constitutional amendment, the Marriage Amendment, didn't necessarily mean that the person wanted to change our definition of marriage in this state," Leva told KARE.

She said her organization held a strategy session Wednesday, and is prepared to mount a vigorous grassrootseffort aimed at talkinglegislators out the idea.

"Only the union of a man and woman has produced children and government has recognized through all societies that that's something worth protecting, that's important," she said.

Sen. Marty says he'll resist any efforts to put the gay marriage question on the ballot, for the same reason he's been giving for decades.

"We shouldn't put people's relationships up to somebody else's vote, somebody else's approval," Marty said.

"My wife anddecided 32 years agowe wanted to marry each other. Our minister and our church supported us in that marriage.Nobody else got to vote on it."

Marty said he doesn't believe the marriage debate will be a distraction, because he thinks it can be handled very quickly. He said he expects to spend far more time dealing with the budget during the 2013 session.

When Democrats regained control of the senate in November's election it meant they'd be moving out of the State Office Building and back into the State Capitol.

The view outside Marty's new Capitol office? The Cathedral of Saint Paul and the headquarters of the Archdiocese, which has devoted substantial resources into the effort to maintain the state's ban on gay marriage.

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