In the rotunda, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak shouted over the railing to the people below: “It takes five days to get a marriage license in Minnesota!” To rousing cheers he added, “August 6th, come on down to City Hall.”
‘Be bold, be courageous’
Inside the usually somber Senate chambers, members shared intensely personal stories about family, friends and loved ones who are gay or lesbian as they took turns speaking on the bill.
Petersen, the only Republican in the body to support same-sex marriage, found himself a national villain with those who thought he betrayed his party.
Petersen acknowledged the vote could cost him his seat, but closed with parting advice to his young children: “Be bold, be courageous, and you will never regret it a day in your life.”
Among the Democrats, LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer, Dan Sparks of Austin and Lyle Koenen of Clara City went against their party and voted no.
Sparks said he’d had “many sleepless nights over this one.” He said his decision came at the last minute, as he thought about the strong opposition to gay marriage within his district.
“It’s by far the toughest vote I’ve had to cast in my 11 years in the Senate,” he said.
However they voted, legislators agreed that there is no turning back on what they now see as a settled issue in the state.
“This is the civil rights issue of our generation,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park.
‘I can’t believe it’
The Capitol erupted in deafening celebration after the vote. Even Senate staffers, secretaries and aides who had seen other big moments in the chamber couldn’t contain their applause.
Anita Rentz and Carol Klein, 28-year partners from East Bethel, fell into a long, tearful embrace.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it,” Rentz said. “This is just so wonderful. I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.” Klein is 80 and Rentz, 62, and they were not sure they would ever make it to the altar. They now plan to marry soon.
Nearby, a lone anti-gay-marriage crusader, Linda Sevlie of Coon Rapids, raised her “one man one woman” sign. She looked on stoically at the singing, dancing and chanting that had erupted around her.
“It’s a sad day for Minnesota,” Sevlie said, straining to be heard above the din. “But God is in charge, although I do believe there are tears in heaven.”
The thousands of elated supporters radiated outward from the North Star emblem in the Capitol rotunda and filled the upper railings. A sign reading “Marriage Equality — You Betcha” hung from the second floor and seemed to serve as an exclamation point to their revelry.
“We’re number 12!” the crowd chanted.