Lena Buggs and Jim Brunsgaard faced off at the North Star.
As the Minnesota House debated a bill legalizing gay marriage, Buggs, 42, of St. Paul, and Brunsgaard, 56, of Hastings, took opposite positions in the competitive chanting and singing that rose from the North Star emblem on the 1st floor of the Capitol.
"Peace and Love!" chanted Buggs, a lesbian who supports the bill, standing at the velvet rope that rings the state's iconic emblem. She led chants that eventually rose to orange-sign-carrying demonstrators lining the railings throughout the vault of the rotunda.
"No! Vote No!" cross-chanted Brunsgaard, a committed Christian who fell to his knees across the star from Buggs and shouted "No!" at every opportunity. People on his side, favoring pink signage, formed a solemn conga-line singing "Amazing Grace."
Their message, too, took flight in the upper levels.
They were part of a historic day at the Capitol, and each recognized the importance of the deliberations a few feet away.
"I'm a servant of Christ," said Brunsgaard, a retired Navy veteran, father of two and businessman. "It disgusts me, because Jesus himself spoke for the traditional marriage between a man and a woman."
It upset him that some pastors were arguing for the bill, quoting the same Bible he follows.
"They're cherry-picking," he said. "That is so wrong. They should uphold the gospel, uphold the word." He said he feared that gay activists want "to destroy the institution of marriage... That's what this is about."
Buggs, a financial advisor who has been active in pushing for the legislation, said,"I'm a gay woman in full support of gay marriage... I wanted to become a part of Minnesota's history in being the 12th state to support gay marriage."
"I hope to get married some day," she said. "And I hope Minnesota will allow me this chance to marry who I love."
As the debate wore on in the chamber, the two sides kept up a respectful cacophony in the rotunda.
"This Little Light of Mine" alternated with "Amazing Grace" among preferred songs. Pro-marriage groups recited the Pledge of Allegiance, shouting out, "with liberty and justice for all!" Anti-gay marriage activists chanted, "God says no!"
A wandering preacher, Ernest Lowe Jr., warned of calamities if the bill passes. "It will bring destruction! It will bring curses on the land! Don't do this!"
Standing next to Lowe was Ramona Scarpace of Plymouth, whose pro-gay-marriage sign identified her as a "lesbian, a citizen and a Christian."
Of Lowe's message, she said: "It's very hard for me to understand that sometimes people can preach hatred and injustice in the love of God."
When the vote totals became known, via a television monitor in an adjacent hallway, equal measures of elation and disappointment spread from the North star up into the rotunda. A resounding cheer began gathering momentum and silken rainbow ribbons were draped over the 2nd-floor railing.
The orange-shirted supporters were hugging and shouting. The pink-sign-carrying opponents were heading home.
"It's a great day for Minnesota! It's a great day for all families! Wonderful!" said Lynnell Mickelsen of Minneapolis as she joined in the cheers immediately after the vote was announced.
She said she believes the tide is turning on the issue. "I think it's a turning point for the country on these issues.... it's more the mainstream viewpoint. This is the future."
"Every society that's ever tried this has failed," said Sharon Zdrazil of St. Paul, who came to oppose the bill and left after the announcement. "Rome -- all of the great empires of the past have fallen when homosexuality got to this pitch,"
"I'm here because what we're doing as a state is wrong, it's just totally wrong -- and it's harmful to all of us,'' she said "It goes against, not only God's law, which they would mock for me to say that, but it's unhealthy what men do with men...."
Brunsgaard, a fervent opponent, said he would be back for the Senate vote and lobby Sen. Katie Sieben, a DFLer who represents him.
"Very disappointed, needless to say," he said after the vote."I'll be working on my senator. Prayerfully, the Senate will have better deliberations, and really consider what they're doing. They're definitely doing against God's word, against the faith. That's what I'm praying for -- that the senators will vote it down."
On his knees, in black shirt, Jim Brunsgaard
Buggs, in red shirt, leading chants