The White House has issued a statement condemning proposals to ban gay marriage in Minnesota, although it stops short of backing marriage equality.

The statement did not explicitly mention the move but called such efforts “divisive” and “discriminatory”.

Voters in the state will decide in 2012 whether a constitutional ban is needed after the House and Senate approved a bill.

Minnesota already bans gay marriage but opponents claim the law needs strengthening.

Last week, a poll suggested that just over half of Minnesota voters do not want a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. However, both sides are expected to spend millions of dollars on their respective campaigns.

In a statement given to the Washington Blade, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said: “The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples or to take such rights away.

“While he believes this is an issue best addressed by the states, he also believes that committed gay couples should have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.”

In December, President Obama said his position on gay marriage was “constantly evolving” and that he would “continue to wrestle with” it.

“This is an issue that I’m still wrestling with, others are still wrestling with,” he said.

“What I know is that at minimum, a baseline is that there has to be a strong, robust civil union available to all gay and lesbian couples.”