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Topics In the News
Governor Signs Minnesota Marriage Equality Bill Into Law
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/13/13
Last updated on: 05/14/13
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Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law.

On May 13, 2013, on a 37-30 vote, the Minnesota Senate passed the marriage equality bill that had previously been passed by the House. On May 14, Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law during a ceremony held on the steps of the capitol building. Minnesota has thus become the twelfth U.S. state to extend equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

After a low-key but occasionally moving four-hour debate, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted on May 13, 2013 to adopt the marriage equality bill that the House adopted on May 9, 2013. Although the 37-30 Senate vote was actually closer than the 75-59 vote in the House, there was little doubt as to its outcome. Those who opposed the bill seemed resigned to its passage, but resentful that some considered them bigots for opposing equal rights.

The opponents attempted to amend the bill to extend religious exemptions to individuals and organizations, but the amendment would have seriously weakened the state's Human Rights Act, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The amendment was rejected on a 26-41 vote.

Three Democrats voted against marriage equality and one Republican, Branden Petersen, voted in favor.

Petersen represents a conservative district that voted in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that failed state-wide in November 2012. Noting that he is uncertain of his future in politics, he declared that he had chosen to stand on the side of liberty.

One of the most moving speeches in the debate came from Senator Jeff Hayden, a black legislator married to a white woman. Saying "It's historic and I can never be so proud of this body and of Minnesotans," Senator Hayden noted that his marriage would have been illegal in some states just 50 years ago.

In an emotional speech, Senator Patricia Torres-Ray spoke in Spanish to explain her support for marriage equality.

Senator Majority Leader Tom Bakk spoke movingly of a pastor who had over the years been very supportive of his family and had married hundreds of couples but was unable to marry himself because he was gay.

But the most stirring speech of the debate came from openly gay Senator Scott Dibble, who was the lead sponsor of the bill. He quoted a passage from gay African-American poet Langston Hughes and said that he and his partner, who were married in California in 2008, would remain strangers in the eyes of Minnesota law unless the bill were passed.

Although some opponents of marriage equality gathered outside the Senate with signs saying "Vote No" and "Don't Erase Moms and Dads," the large majority of the crowds in the gallery and waiting outside the chamber were supporters of marriage equality, who were in a celebratory mood. They greeted Senator Dibble with loud cheers as he arrived at the Capitol.

As marriage equality supporters filed into the Capitol Rotunda in advance of the Senate debate, they sang "America the Beautiful."

Upon learning the results of the vote, marriage equality supporters chanted thanks to the legislators.

On May 14, after Governor Dayton signed the bill into law before thousands of Minnesotans gathered on the steps of the state capitol, he embraced Senator Dibble and Representative Karen Clark, the openly gay legislators who were the lead sponsors of the bill.

The bill takes effect on August 1, 2013.

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