Packed Capitol full of emotion on both sides watched as measure picked up 75 votes, including 4 Republicans.
With cheers and protests thundering through the Capitol, the Minnesota House on Thursday took a historic step toward legalizing same-sex marriage.
The bill passed 75-59 with resounding DFL support and the votes of four Republicans. The measure now goes to the Senate on Monday, where its passage is considered likely. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he intends to sign the bill into law, which would make Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
“All Minnesotans deserve the freedom to marry the person they love, and we are proud to take this historic vote to ensure same-sex couples have that right,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, a Minneapolis DFLer who visibly choked up as he announced the final vote.
The vote capped a day of extraordinary scenes inside the Capitol. Some of the largest crowds in recent memory filled the halls, with activists filling every corner and stairway. Capitol security brought in dozens of extra officers to maintain order and roped off many areas that are usually open in an effort to clear a way for legislators to move freely in the building.
As he has for seven years, gay activist Doug Benson stood quietly outside the House chamber, his two iPads flashing, “Marriage Equality. This Year.” Opponents read Bible verses and sang hymns.
Several House members were brought to the point of tears during the debate.
“Justice is knocking,” said state Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, who voted yes. “How often does justice come knocking? Until we open the door.”
Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, wiped her eyes after voting no. “My heart breaks for Minnesota,” she said.
Opponents say their last hope is to convince senators that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, ordained by God and not subject to change.
The vote comes just six months after Minnesota voters defeated a proposal to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. The sharp divisions remaining within the state were evident in a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll two months ago that showed a majority of Minnesotans still opposed to lifting the legal ban on gay marriage.
“History will determine whether this was the right move, but one thing I think we really know is that Minnesota is divided over the issue,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said moments before the vote. “Hearts and minds may be changing, but Minnesota is still divided and now is not the time.”
With the margin expected to be only a couple votes, lobbying had been fierce. Proponents called Thissen’s office at the rate of one per minute. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, confident the Senate had the votes to pass the bill, had wanted the shakier House to act first. Dayton lobbied a closed-door meeting of House DFLers.
At one point, Chris Kluwe, the Minnesota Vikings punter recently cut from the team, personally lobbied Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, to vote for the bill. Garofalo ended up among the four Republicans who voted yes.
‘Children of God’
Rep. Tim Faust, DFL-Hinckley, said doing the right thing cannot wait, no matter how politically perilous.
Faust, a minister, said he searched for the courage for months “to vote for this bill when the majority of people in my district do not agree with this.”
Ultimately, Faust said, he did it for “the young man or woman that every day has to get up and go to school knowing that they are going to be picked on, knowing they are going to be called names. Knowing there is a good chance they might get beat up because they are who God made them to be — children of God, brothers and sisters of ours, and yet they do not have the same rights that we do.”
Same-sex marriage opponents renewed their calls to leave marriage alone.