“Today we have the power, the awesome power to make dreams come true,” said out gay Senator Scott Dibble, a Minneapolis Democrat, just moments before the Minnesota Legislature concluded its debate on a marriage equality bill on May 13. Later in his speech, he added, "Vote yes for love."
The measure passed by a 37-30 vote, four days after the House of Representatives approved the same bill on a 75-59 vote.
A day after the Senate action, Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, signed the bill on the steps of the Capitol in St. Paul on May 14. “Love is the law,” the governor told a crowd that the Duluth Tribune News estimated at 6,000.
Karen Clark, an out lesbian Democrat from Minneapolis who led the push to pass the legislation in the House, emphasized the importance of backing those who voted yes when they face reelection next year. In response, the crowd chanted, “We’ve got your back,” the newspaper reported.
It was only in November that Minnesota voters narrowly defeated an effort to write a provision into the State Constitution barring same-sex couples from marrying.
Minnesota becomes the 12th state to allow same-sex couples to marry, and only the second one in the Midwest. Marriage equality became law in neighboring Iowa in 2009, following a unanimous ruling by the State Supreme Court.
Minnesota becomes the third state in as many weeks to legalize gay marriage –– following Rhode Island and Delaware. In addition to Rhode Island, all five of the other New England states –– Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine –– also allow same-sex couples to marry. New York approved gay marriage in June 2011.
Voters in Maryland and Washington State last November affirmed marriage equality enactments by their state legislatures earlier in 2012. Marriage equality is also the law in Washington, DC.
In Illinois, which also borders Iowa, the State Senate approved a marriage equality bill on February 14 by a 34-21 vote. Advocates continue to work on identifying a majority in the State House, where Democrats hold a veto-proof majority. Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is committed to signing the law if it is placed before him.
The US Supreme Court, before the end of June, is expected to resolve a constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a 2008 voter initiative that ended the right to marry that gay and lesbian couples there had enjoyed as a result of a State Supreme Court ruling earlier that year.
The high court is also considering a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act’s bar on federal recognition of valid same-sex marriages.
One Minnesota senator speaking in support of the gay marriage law reminded his colleagues of a speech “the greatest Minnesotan, Hubert Humphrey” made at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. The late vice president, who was then mayor of Minneapolis, speaking in favor of a civil rights plank in the party platform, declared, “The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights."