A House committee vote on whether to move the bill to the House floor is expected Tuesday evening, March 12.
The Senate Judiciary committee voted 5-3 in favor of the bill Tuesday afternoon, after about three hours of public testimony and members' comments.
All the 'yes' votes were from Democrats and all the 'no' votes from Republicans.
The Democrats control both the House and Senate, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he'll sign a gay-marriage bill if one reaches his desk. Nine states and the District of Columbia currently allow gay marriage.
Tuesday morning, the House Civil Law committee heard an hour and a half of testimony on the House version of the bill and then broke to reconvene at 6 p.m.
"Committed same-sex couples should be treated fairly under the law," said Rep. Karen Clark, the sponsor of the House bill. "I believe it's time for us to do the right thing."
The bill would allow religious organizations to refuse to marry same-sex couples, and it would not affect the way they carry out adoptions, foster care placements or other social services unless they receive public money for those purposes.
But Gus Booth, pastor of Warroad Community Church, said he believes the religious exemptions offer limited protection. "Should a person's belief be confined
to the four walls of their church?" he said. He said the bill represents "overreaching" on the part of metro lawmakers to impose gay marriage on the rest of the state.
Both Clark and the bill's Senate sponsor, Scott Dibble, are gay Democrats from Minneapolis.
Eleven-year-old Grace Evans of Fridley told committee members that her mother and father have different, but complementary, strengths. "Which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?" she asked.
Carlson Cos. Chairwoman Marilyn Carlson Nelson testified in support of the bill in part as a way to attract and retain talented workers. "We must fully live up to our Minnesota values," she said. Failing to recognize gay marriages amounts to "adult bullying," she said.