ST. PAUL  (AP) - A bill to ban gay marriage in Minnesota's constitution gets a hearing in a state Senate committee that's likely to draw heavy interest from both sides of the issue.

It's been five years since the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a gay marriage ban. But Republicans newly in control of the Legislature are again pushing to put the question before statewide voters in 2012.

Minnesota statutes already bans gay marriage but supporters of the constitutional ban say the higher ban is needed to guard against judicial decisions or a move to repeal the ban in law.

Democratic critics of the new effort say it's a distraction from the state's budget problems and that public opinion is shifting rapidly in favor of legal recognition of gay relationships.

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