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ST. PAUL, Minn (Reuters) - The Minnesota House of Representatives on Thursday advanced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, a measure that would make Minnesota the 12th U.S. state to do so, the third this month after Delaware and Rhode Island.
Democratic-led state representatives voted 75-59 to approve the bill, which will be advanced to the state Senate, where a vote is expected on Monday.
Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, a supporter, has pressed lawmakers to back the measure.
Opponents have questioned whether the bill would protect the rights of religious groups and individuals who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. Supporters have said it would.
Minnesota for Marriage, a group opposed to the bill, called for prayer and protest on Thursday at the state Capitol in St. Paul, while Minnesotans United for All Families asked bill supporters to wear orange and blue for the vote.
U.S. advocates for legalizing same-sex marriage have won a series of victories in the past year.
"As Americans have had a chance to really talk about who gay people are and why marriage matters, and think about their personal values of fairness, we have grown to a significant national majority in favor of the freedom to marry," said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the national gay rights group Freedom to Marry.
In November, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved same-sex marriage at the same time that Minnesota voters rejected a ballot proposal to put a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
Until then, advocates of same-sex marriage had never been successful at the ballot box, and voters in more than two dozen states had approved constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
On May 2, Rhode Island became the last of the six New England states to approve same-sex marriage. Delaware approved same-sex marriage on Tuesday.
Same-sex marriage is also legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa. The District of Columbia also has legalized same-sex marriage.
A proposal to make same-sex marriage legal remains pending before the Illinois legislature. The Illinois Senate approved a gay marriage bill on Valentine's Day in February, but the measure has not been voted on in the full House.
Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Mohammad Zargham and David Gregorio