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Minnesota bill would institute universal civil unions, leave marriage to churches

While Minnesota state lawmakers consider a measure to legalize gay marriage and an alternative civil unions bill for gay couples, Democratic state Rep. Kim Norton has signed on to a third option: Universal civil unions.

The bill would offer civil unions to gay and straight couples, getting the state government out of the marriage business altogether and making "certain that every Minnesotan couple gets a civil union in the state of Minnesota," Norton told ABC's KAALTV. The measure would leave marriage "to the churches that are offering them," she added. Norton did not address how the measure, which was introduced on Thursday, would secure federal benefits for Minnesota couples or out-of-state recognition of civil partnerships.

Norton had previously supported the Republican-backed measure for gay civil unions, but withdrew her support after calling the bill unfair and unequal. This, she says, is a better compromise.

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