Support for equality has claimed a victim among the small number of Republican legislators who voted last year to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Rep. David FitzSimmons (R-Albertville) had never spoken on the Minnesota House floor until last May. Now, that first big speech has led to his early exit from the Legislature.
FitzSimmons spoke in support of the marriage equality law that legalized same sex marriage last year and passed with the votes of most Democrats but with only a handful of votes from Republicans. FitzSimmons at first supported a compromise effort to limit same-sex marriages to “civil” marriages in an effort to balance religious freedoms with the expansion of the freedom to marry.
“I always appreciate anyone’s efforts to do something that they believe is increasing our liberties and increasing our freedoms,” he said during the House debate. “I know that everyone in here has very different ideas of what that is…Sometimes I wish that more people agreed with mine.”
The amendment FitzSimmons supported lost decisively, 22-111. But FitzSimmons later joined the majority of House Democrats in approving the marriage equality bill, which was signed into law a few days later.
Religious conservatives target FitzSimmons
Religious conservative activists in FitzSimmons’ 30B House district were upset at his vote and organized behind Eric Lucero, who made FitzSimmons’ vote on marriage equality the centerpiece of his campaign for the Republican endorsement for election next November. At the Republican convention in Buffalo, Minn., last weekend, Lucero won the endorsement. FitzSimmons then quickly announced he will retire from the Legislature rather than run against Lucero in a primary.
FitzSimmons, 35, is a single father and a first-term legislator. He becomes the first Republican lawmaker forced into retirement because of his marriage equality vote. Republican Representatives Pat Garofalo (Farmington), Jennifer Loon (Eden Prairie) and Andrea Kieffer (Woodbury) also voted yes. Garofalo and Loon have not faced serious opposition for endorsement. Kieffer announced last November that she would not seek re-election in order to attend to the needs of her 23-year-old daughter, who has mitochondrial disease.