Minnesota will become the third state in the last 10 days to legalize gay marriage when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signs the bill passed yesterday into law tonight at a ceremony on the front steps of the Capitol in St. Paul.
Dayton’s signature will make Minnesota the first state in the Midwest to legalize gay marriage by a legislative vote. It joins Rhode Island and Delaware as the most recent states to accompany the nine that already allow gay marriage.
The Minnesota House passed the bill last week with a 75-59 vote, but supporters and opponents were close to even during the debate. Yesterday, thousands of supporters gathered at the Capitol and released deafening cheers after the Senate passed the bill 37-30. Three Democratic senators from rural districts voted against the bill and only one Republican, Branden Petersen of suburban Andover, voted for it.
The law passed after an emotional four-hour debate in the Senate. Sen. Ron Latz, a Democrat from a Minneapolis suburb, argued that an anti-gay stance is against God’s intentions: "Members, God made gays. And God made gays capable of loving other people. So who are we to quarrel with God's intentions?"
Another senator, Vicki Jensen from Owatonna, compared the joy she has in her marriage with her husband to the joy she believes gay couples can have: "I could never and I would never deny the kind of recognition and all the other positive things I get out of my marriage with my husband, to anyone else."
But not everyone saw yesterday’s vote as positive for Minnesota. Don Lee, of Eagan, put a tombstone on the Capitol lawn that said: "R.I.P. MARRIAGE 2013." Lee said yesterday marked “a transformation from a forward-looking sacrificial institution to one focused on adult desires."
Many Republicans argued marriage is a fundamental institution in society that benefits children, noting the bill changes that. Sen. Dan Hall, a Republican and a pastor, said he has been told he is on the wrong side of history, but he says, "the truth is I'm more concerned about being on the right side of eternity."
Just six months ago, voters defeated an amendment to ban gay marriage in the Minnesota Constitution, but the amendment shows lingering support for traditional marriage in Minnesota. Democrats gained full control of state government in November, which aided the gay-marriage campaign.
Supporters created a path into the Capitol with hearts taped to the stairs. In the rotunda they sang songs like “Over the Rainbow,” “Going to the Chapel,” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman proclaimed it “Freedom to Marry Week” and ordered the downtown Wabasha Street Bridge covered in rainbow-striped flags and temporarily named it the “Freedom to Marry Bridge.”
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is Minnesota’s most famous advocate for traditional marriage and supported it while serving in the state Senate. After yesterday’s vote, she said it “denies religious liberty to people who believe in traditional marriage.”