After days of hoping, waiting and fasting, supporters of allowing undocumented residents to get legal drivers licenses broke into tears, cheers, chants and song as the bill passed the Minnesota Senate.
Advocates have camped out at the Capitol for days to add pressure on lawmakers to vote
on the issue.
Shortly after 10 p.m., they got their vote. The Senate approved the measure 36-28.
Despite the approval and the joy that filled the marble hall outside the Senate, backers of the measure still have a long way to go. The House has yet to approve the measure, which would allow people to apply for drivers licenses with a non-U.S. passport and get a license that would be marked "For Driving Only."
Even if the House does pass it, which appears unlikely, the measure would likely stop with Gov. Mark Dayton. His spokeswoman said he opposes the idea.
Low wage workers hoping for a boost in the minimum wage will likely be out of luck this session.
"It seems it's unlikely we are going to get a bill there," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
The Minnesota House wants to hike the state's minimum wage from $6.15 an hour, one of the country's lowest, to $9.50 an hour, which would be one of the country's highest. The Senate wants to raise the minimum to $7.75 an hour.
After a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday morning, the DFL leaders emerged saying they simply cannot bridge their differences.
"We passed a very strong bill that we think serves working Minnesotans very well and we think the minimum wage should be near our number and for whatever reason the Senate doesn't think it can get there," said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
Their lack of movement on the issue dashes what had been a priority for many DFL lawmakers and their allies. Members of Working America, a coalition of union and other groups, have sent more than 1,500 emails, 2,000 letters and 13,000 face-to-face conversations to support a higher minimum wage.
Gov. Mark Dayton deputy chief of staff Bob Hume said the governor is still hopes the House and Senate can agree on the issue. Dayton supports raising the minimum wage to between $9 and $9.50 an hour.
"The votes just are not there in the Senate to go that high. The good news there is there's a conference committee there that's open," Bakk said.
Thissen said the lack of movement is "totally unfortunate."
"It would be good for the people of Minnesota but..if we're going to do it we're going to make sure we are going to have a strong minimum wage and so that's where we are," Thissen said.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders will return to private budget meetings this afternoon.
The governor's office said it was a "check in" meeting.
On Sunday, the DFL leaders announced the bare bones of a budget plan to end the legislative session. Despite the agreement, many details remained unclear, including timing for the passage of budget bills, the exact shape of spending and taxes and some of the key provisions of the bills.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said on Monday that the final deal will include funding for all day kindergarten across the state and Dayton's plan for scholarships for early childhood education.
Joint House-Senate committees have already started working on filling in other details.
For a timely ending, all of the budget bills must pass the House and Senate by May 20.
Today, Minnesota will become the twelfth state to legalize same-sex marriage.
At a 5 p.m. Capitol public signing ceremony, Gov. Mark Dayton will ink a law that makes gay marriage legal. The law will make it legal for same-sex couples to make their unions legally official after August 1.
Afterwards, supporters will troop over to 375 Wabash Street North in downtown St. Paul for a street party and concert.
The events bring to a close, for now, a long and divisive fight over marriage.
For more than a decade, supporters of defining marriage as only the union of one man and one woman have battled to get that definition into the Minnesota constitution. In 2011, the Legislature approved the ballot measure but the next year Minnesota voters rejected it, paving the way for supporters of same sex marriage to push their case.
Last week, in a 75-59 vote the House approved legalization. The Senate followed suit on Monday in a 37-30 vote.
For supporters, the approval touched off tearful relief, parties and plans for summer weddings.
For opponents, it ushered in disappointment, sorrow and predictions of voter reprisals.
"Make no mistake, this vote will bring the demise of the DFL majority and end the careers of wayward Republicans in the Legislature once voters have their say," said Brian Brown, National Organization for Marriage president.
With deafening cheers and overwhelming emotion, the Minnesota Senate voted 37-30 to legalize same-sex marriage.
“Today, love wins,” said Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick.
The vote, on the heels of a vote last week in the House, brings to a close a decade of debate over marriage that has echoed through the Capitol, bringing thousands of friends and foes of gay marriage to its marbled dome to express their deeply held feelings.
The measure next moves to Gov. Mark Dayton, who will welcome it with his signature in a celebratory ceremony at 5 p.m. Tuesday on the south steps of the Capitol.
Once it is signed, Minnesota will become the twelfth state to legalize same sex-marriage.
"It's historic and I can never be so proud of this body and of Minnesotans," said Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis. On the Senate floor, Hayden said that his wife is white and noted that just 50 years ago, his loving relationship would have been barred.
Three Democrats – Sens. LeRoy Stumpf, Dan Sparks and Lyle Koenen – voted against the bill. One Republican, Sen. Branden Petersen, voted yes.
Up until the last moments, some opponents had hoped the bill would fail despite clear indications that it would head to the Dayton’s desk.
Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said up until the last he was praying for a miracle and the Senate to reject the bill.
“Some people have said that they are concerned about being on the right side of history. I am more concerned about being on the right side of eternity,” said Hall.
A few opponents of the bill dotted the Capitol holding signs that read 'Don't Erase Moms and Dads’ or gathered in a quiet spot to watch the debate unfold.
"In my heart, I grieve on both sides. Because I know what it's like to be alone and I know what it is like to have somebody close to you and love you. But I grieve inside because I feel we are opening the doors to Sodom and Gomorra. And in the end, God is going to be the judge," said Nelson, of Blaine, tears running down her cheeks.
On the Senate floor, Senators began with a discussion of what kinds of organizations would be protected from punishment if they refuse to involve themselves with same-sex marriage.
The measure being voted upon gives religious organizations protections, but Sen. Warren Limmer said those protections are limited.
“It doesn’t go far enough,” said Limmer, R-Maple Grove.
He said students, teachers, private business and colleges could be punished.
But backers of the legalization measure countered that Minnesota already has a human rights law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and that does not change if the marriage law changes.
“That’s true today, that will be true tomorrow,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis and the sponsor of the marriage bill.
After long debate, the Senate voted down adding a measure to the marriage bill that backers said would offer religious opponents greater protections and opponents said would “gut” the state’s Human Rights act. The Human Rights Act forbids discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation. That measure failed on a 26-41 vote.
Opponents of the bill have repeatedly said that Minnesotans were lied to last year during the campaign against the constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. They were told, they claimed, that nothing would change if the amendment didn’t pass.
“Do they feel betrayed today? Absolutely. Do they feel lied to? Yeah,” said Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake.
Those who campaigned hard against the constitutional ban deny that they claimed they would never try to legalize same-sex marriage.
Opponents of legalization were vastly outnumbered by supporters in the Capitol on Monday, as they were in the Senate chambers.
In droves, they welcomed lawmakers to the Capitol with hearts pasted on the august building’s stone steps, sang songs, banged drums and created echoes in the marble halls as lawmakers on their side spoke.
“We have nothing to fear from love and commitment,” said Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, setting off an echo of praise.
But some Senate members may have something to fear.
Last year, although Minnesota as a state opposed the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, many districts supported it. Although the vote on the amendment is not a perfect indicator of support, or lack thereof, for same same-sex marriage, those districts’ votes weighed heavy on the minds of lawmakers.
Those districts include the Andover district that Sen. Brenden Petersen represents. A Republican, his district voted to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the constitution.
He is a co-sponsor of the law to legalize same sex marriage and was the first legislative Republican to publicly declare his support.
In the final debate, he sent this message to his children: “Be bold and be courageous and you will never regret a day in your life."
He said that he is more uncertain of his future than he has been, but that he is confident that he was standing on the side of liberty.
Some Democrats faced similar conflicts. Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, comes from a district that voted for the marriage amendment and she voted yes.
Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, has been there. Last Thursday, he voted for the bill. Sixty-two percent of his district voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. He announced his vote publicly the week before he took it.
He said he has heard from passionate people on both sides.
“Criticism is a natural part of this,” Radinovich said afterward. But even in his outstate district, feelings are evolving.
“You can see public opinion changing on the ground up there,” he said.
By the time he runs for re-election in 2014, he and all Minnesotans will have a chance to see how same-sex marriage has changed the state. After Dayton’s signature, it will be legal on August 1.
Click here for an interactive graphic of the House and Senate votes that sent the measure to the governor's desk.
Baird Helgeson contributed to this post.
Here's the vote: