With Senate vote Monday and Gov. Mark Dayton's signature Tuesday evening, Minnesota is about to become the 12th state to legalize gay marriage.
Amid roaring chants from supporters and tears from opponents, the state Senate took a historic step Monday to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
The 37-30 vote came after a failed, last-ditch attempt by opponents to scuttle the measure.
“I’m going to be a married man in Minnesota!” DFL Sen. Scott Dibble, the Senate’s only openly gay member, proclaimed to supporters after emerging from the chamber.
One Republican, Sen. Branden Petersen, joined a majority of DFL legislators to make Minnesota poised to become the 12th state to legalize gay marriage. Three DFLers voted against the measure.
Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, pleaded with colleagues to vote the bill down: “Don’t vote what you know is morally wrong,” said Hall, a former CEO of Midwest Chaplains. “May God help us.”
Minnesota will become the first Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage by legislative vote, and it signals the latest victory for those working to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples across the nation. Monday’s action technically repeals a state statute that had prohibited such unions.
Gov. Mark Dayton will sign the bill at 5 p.m. Tuesday, on the Capitol steps, kicking off a parade that will take supporters to a massive downtown St. Paul celebration. The law will take effect Aug. 1.
Opponents said the vote is a testament to the political muscle of gay and lesbian advocacy groups.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you have the resources,” said John Helmberger, chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, the lead group that worked to block same-sex marriage from being recognized. “This is definitely not the will of the people.”
The vote completes a seismic turnaround on the issue in Minnesota. Two years ago, Republicans controlled the Legislature and put a constitutional measure on the ballot to ban same-sex marriage.
That triggered the formation of Minnesotans United for All Families, an advocacy group that generated unprecedented financial and volunteer support to campaign against the measure, which was defeated last November.
This year, the group unleashed its lobbying might to press the Legislature, now under Democratic control, to legalize same-sex marriage.
“The irony of today, as great as it is, is that if the Republican majorities two years ago had not placed this on the ballot in November, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Sen. Dick Cohen, a St. Paul DFLer who was a chief backer of the marriage measure. “The two-year buildup for that is what has allowed this to happen.”
Throughout the day, a throng of 3,000 same-sex marriage supporters, countered by a handful of opponents, jammed nearly every corner of the Capitol.
The tenor was vastly different from the uncertainty that hung over last week’s House vote on the issue. Monday’s vote drew a younger, more celebratory crowd, with few of the intense showdowns that erupted while the House debated the issue.
Al Mack of Coon Rapids and Alec Fischer of Edina held up orange signs with the words: “My boyfriend,” and arrows pointing at one another. “We shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens,” Mack said.
Gay and lesbian couples held hands as they waited confidently for the vote, snapped pictures of one another and ambled through the halls, some pushing strollers with young children.
Hundreds of heterosexual supporters showed up too, wearing shirts and holding signs that said “Support Marriage.” Many members of the crowd joined in singing “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Overcome.”