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m9119 BC-MN-XGR-CapNotebook-D 04-30 0236

Domestic partner bill passes Senate after gay marriage debate

ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota Senate approved hospital visitation rights for domestic partners on Monday, touching off debate over the definition of marriage.

The legislation, which passed 43-21, would give unmarried domestic partners the standing to visit and make health care decisions for each other in the hospital. The bill defines domestic partners as adults in a "committed interdependent relationship" who live together.

Gay marriage opponents painted the bill as a sneaky way of legalizing same-sex unions.

"The real purpose is to create some law that would form a basis for litigation over the constitutionality of our marriage law," said Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield.

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Backers characterized the legislation as a humane effort to help same-sex partners who have hit barriers during health emergencies.

"It’s not about visitation — it’s not about bringing cards and flowers and candy," said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. "It’s about people who need to stick together in the most trying and difficult circumstances and times."

An amendment that would have removed the term "domestic partners" from the bill failed 31-34.

A House version awaits a vote, but Neuville said Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably won’t sign it.

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