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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 17, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 20x
Minnesota makes it 12 - Marriage equality is now the law in the North Star State
Section One
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Minnesota makes it 12 - Marriage equality is now the law in the North Star State

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

'What a day for Minnesota!' Gov. Mark Dayton said just moments before signing his state's new marriage equality bill on May 14. 'And what a difference a year and an election can make in our state.'

Only six months ago, equality supporters were mobilizing to defeat a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. But the amendment was defeated in November's election, President Obama carried the state, and Democrats captured majorities in both houses of Minnesota's legislature.

That set the stage for an equality counterattack. A bill legalizing marriage for Gay and Lesbian couples passed the Minnesota House on May 9 and the Senate on May 13. Dayton signed the bill the next day.

A crowd estimated by state police at more than 6,000 filled the steps of the State Capitol building in St. Paul and spilled over onto the adjacent lawn. Rainbow flags mixed with the Stars and Stripes to create a festival atmosphere.

At the signing ceremony, Dayton thanked legislators for their 'political courage' and then turned to congratulate openly Gay Sen. Scott Dibble, the author of the marriage bill, and his husband Richard Leyva. The couple married in California before Prop 8 passed, and they now plan to remarry in their home state of Minnesota after the new law takes effect August 1.

'GOD MADE GAYS'
The four-hour long debate in the state Senate was emotional, but not without its lighter moments. At one point, Democratic Sen. Ron Latz poked fun at some of the claims of equality opponents.

'Members, God made Gays,' Latz said. 'And God made Gays capable of loving other people. So who are we to quarrel with God's intentions?'

In the end, Minnesota senators approved the marriage bill by a close 37-30 vote. Three Democrats voted No, and one Republican, Sen. Branden Petersen, voted Yes.

For Rep. Karen Clark, who led the fight to pass the measure in the House, it was the culmination of years of struggle.

'I thought it would happen someday, but I didn't know I would be able to be here to be part of it,' Clark said, just hours before the signing ceremony on May 14.

The longest-serving openly Lesbian lawmaker in the country, Clark, 67, had already been out of the closet for a decade when she was elected to the legislature in 1980. She told the Minneapolis Star Tribune she plans to marry her partner, Jacquelyn Zita, when the new law takes effect.

A LONG STRUGGLE
'It is an overwhelming joyful day, the culmination of years of work. Two years ago it would have been unimaginable to be here,' said Jake Loesch, communications director for Minnesotans United. 'It was incredible - we had 7,000 people cheering as the bill was signed. It was probably the biggest crowd the Capitol has ever seen.'

'The transformative nature of people talking about their love and their lives is clear, as we see in reaching this milestone in Minnesota and in the fact that a clear and growing majority of Americans supports the freedom to marry,' said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

'The many years of door-knocking, phone calls, and poignant conversations about why marriage matters have made a difference,' she added.

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