Minnesota senators 'vote for love,' legalize same-sex marriageAfter Minnesota Senate votes 37-30 to legalize same-sex marriage, bill goes to Gov. Dayton’s desk.
By: Don Davis, Forum News Service
ST. PAUL — Love and marriage soon will go together for Minnesota gays like they do for straight couples.
“Vote yes for love,” Sen. Scott Dibble told his colleagues Monday.
Enough senators agreed and gave the Minneapolis Democrat his wish of a Minnesota that allows same-sex couples to marry, the 12th state to allow it.
“Today we have the power, the awesome humbling power, to make dreams come true.” Dibble said as a four-hour, three-minute debate wound down.
Senators voted 37-30 to remove a state law that bans same-sex marriage. The vote followed a Thursday 75-59 House vote, leaving Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature today the only step remaining before gays can marry starting Aug. 1.
Dayton plans to sign the bill at 5 p.m. today on the front steps of the state Capitol, where large crowds gathered Thursday and Monday, mostly supporting gay marriage.
After today’s signing ceremony, downtown St. Paul will host an outdoor Freedom to Marry concert.
Monday’s debate was civil and quiet, but still energetic, as Republican after Republican denounced gay marriage or tried to make the bill more palatable. Democrats, meanwhile, compared the historic debate to civil rights efforts of the 1960s.
Republicans argued that God opposes gay marriage, but Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, turned the tables on them.
“God made gays and God made gays capable of loving people,” Latz said. “Who are we to quarrel with God’s intentions?”
The two sides of the debate agreed on the importance of the Dibble bill.
“This is a once-in-a-generation kind of a bill,” Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, said. “Pro or con, it doesn’t matter.”
“I can’t think of another vote that I have taken that will impact so many people,” added Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
Bakk relayed a story about a counselor his father hired at the Lutheran church camp he ran when the senator was a child.
The senator said that “Ray was there” during happy and sad times in the Bakk family.
“Ray knows a lot about marriage,” Bakk said of the counselor-turned-minister. “He has married a lot of couples.”
Bakk and his wife are one of those couples, a few years before Ray came out as gay.
“He participated and shared in the joy of so many marriages, but he could never have one of his own,” Bakk said.
He said his vote in favor of the Dibble bill reflected what he learned growing up in Bible camp: tolerance, diversity, the golden rule.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said he is concerned for his grandchildren. “There are going to be some questions about family and family traditions.”
Dibble, who married his partner, Richard Leyva, in California in 2008, said that allowing gays to marry would make for stronger communities and state.
“It is a very simple bill, but sometimes the simplest bills are the most powerful in affecting people,” Dibble said.
Moments after the vote, Dibble, Leyva, House bill sponsor Rep. Karen Clark of Minneapolis and other Democrats received a rousing welcome by the 2,800 people who jammed into the Capitol. Most of the people were gay-rights supporters, although a few opponents were on hand, mostly to pray.
Senators were quiet during the debate as about 75 House members and Senate staffers lined the walls to watch history being made.
Among provisions Dibble emphasized in his bill are those that protect clergy and religious organizations. He said clergy would not be required to marry same-sex couples and his bill would not affect religious organizations’ dealings with gay weddings.
Dibble said state law already deals only with civil marriage, but that his bill adds “civil” before “marriage” in state law to give people concerned about it affecting religious organizations more comfort.
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the bill does not go far enough to protect people who have “a contrary opinion.” He said all religious organizations would not be protected and no business would be protected.
Dibble said that other than the gay-wedding provisions, there will be no changes in state law that already makes it illegal to discriminate against gays. “What is true today will be true tomorrow.”
Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, offered an amendment, which failed, that would have extended protections to allow more religious groups opposed to same-sex marriage to decide whether to serve gays.
“It is about living your faith, seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Gazelka said, such as not forcing church-related colleges or private businesses to deal with gay weddings.
Limmer, who authored a bill two years ago to put a gay marriage ban in the state Constitution, said that senators came into the debate “without clear consensus from our community.”
On the bill’s final vote, three rural Democrats joined all but one Republican in voting against the bill: Sens. LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer, Lyle Koenen of Clara City and Dan Sparks of Austin.
Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said that he was happy to walk up the Capitol’s front steps en route to the debate.
“Today is one of those days, those rare days where we can make a real and recognizable difference in people’s lives ....” he said. “At the core of the debate today is love.”
Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, said his constituents are not all on the same side on the issue, but he voted for the bill.
Reinert, one of the few single senators, said he wants to give everyone the same right he has, the chance to marry.
“I vote today to give something that is not really mine to give,” he said. “As I search my core beliefs and convictions, I find that I want those for everyone.”