State Senate passes same-sex marriage bill, Dayton ready to sign

Senate vote on marriage bill.JPG

The bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state has cleared its final legislative hurdle, and is now headed to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who plans to sign it into law Tuesday.

The Minnesota Senate passed the measure today by a vote of 37-30, after more than four hours of debate. Only one Republican joined Democrats on the prevailing side, and three DFLers opposed the bill.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the bill’s chief author, said the relatively simple change will have a big impact on many peoples lives.

“With just a few words, we have the ability to bring loving families across the entire state of Minnesota into the full sunshine of freedom and equality that they’ve been denied for so long,” Dibble said. “And in so doing, help them become stronger affirm the values we all share and strengthen our democracy.”

The bill includes specific exemptions for churches and other faith organizations that object to gay marriage on religious grounds. Additional language was added in the House to protect religious freedom. But Senate opponents tried unsuccessfully to add even more. Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said individuals should also have their objections to same-sex marriage protected.

“Isn’t there room in our state, isn’t there room in our statutes for proposals like this, where we recognize the rights of people who have deeply held sincere beliefs, and allow them to say, ‘I’m sorry I can’t do that?,'” Limmer asked.

But Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park argued that the proposed amendment would actually gut the state’s existing human rights act and lead to more discrimination.

“Do we really want to go there, members? Haven’t we been there before 40 years ago. Aren’t we past that as a society?”

Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, is among those who object to gay marriage on religious grounds. Hall said while some celebrate the vote, others are grieving. He predicted the passage of the bill will bring civil disobedience.

“This document will split our schools, our churches our towns. our counties our state. It will hurt businesses and confuse children, more than any single issue has ever done since the Civil War.”

Minnesota will become the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. After the governor signs the bill same sex couples will be able to marry as of August 1. The state will also recognize the unions of same sex people who were married in other states and countries. Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, who has sponsored previous gay marriage bills, said it’s time for same-sex couples to be treated the same as other couples.

“These families, whether some have been able to acknowledge it or not, there families pay taxes,” Marty said. “They participate in their community. They go to church. They’re active in the PTA. These families same rights and recognition that we do.”

The House passed the bill last week on a 75-59 vote, with the help of four Republicans. Two House Democrats voted against the bill.

In the Senate three DFLers voted no. They were Senators Lyle Koenen of Clara City, Dan Sparks of Austin and Leroy Stumpf of Plummer. Only one Republican supported the measure. Republican Senator Branden Petersen of Andover was a co-sponsor of the bill. Petersen said he felt uncertain about his political future but not about his vote.

“I’ve sliced every issue as it relates to this vote up and down and side to side,” Petersen said. “And I truly couldn’t come back to this chamber as an honest legislator and cast a no vote on this bill. I couldn’t wake up in the morning, look myself in the mirror and say that I am honestly doing the work that I need to do, that I’m honestly doing what in my heart and in my mind is the right thing to do.”

Gov. Dayton is ready to act quickly on the bill once it arrives. A signing ceremony is planned for the south steps of the State Capitol on Tuesday evening.