The measure that state Rep. Karen Clark (D-Minneapolis) introduced passed by a 75-59 vote margin after lawmakers debated it for nearly three hours.
“I do believe we are on the verge of changing Minnesota’s history,” Clark said before legislators approved House File 1054. Her long-time partner, Jacqueline Zita, was inside the chamber for the vote. “We are strengthening the meaning of marriage by opening it to couples who are committed.”
State Rep. Rena Moran (D-St. Paul) referenced the Declaration of Independence and the civil rights movement as she spoke in support of HF 1054.
“Either we’re equal or we’re not equal,” she said. “Equal is really equal, so today I stand believing that we are on the right side of history.”
State Rep. Tim Faust (D-Hinckley) discussed his own marriage as he discussed why he now supports nuptials for gays and lesbians in Minnesota.
“Today we have the opportunity — the opportunity to give a part of our population, fellow brothers and sisters of God the same rights that most of us have taken for granted since the day we knew what the opposite sex was,” he said.
Same-sex marriage advocates quickly applauded the vote.
“Today, Minnesota moves one significant step closer to finally securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples,” Minnesotans United, a group that supports the same-sex marriage bill, said. “This is the first time in history that legislation to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples has passed a body of the Minnesota Legislature, and we are deeply grateful to the 75 leaders in Minnesota House of Representatives who listened to their constituents and chose to stand on the side of love and family by voting yes.”
“Thank you Minnesota House,” former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe added in a post to his Twitter account after the vote. “Equality is only equality if everyone has it. You’ve made society that much better today.”
Neighboring Iowa is among the nine states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can currently marry.
Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage in the state as between a man and a woman.
State Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine) said HF 1054 would classify “half of Minnesotans as bigots” as he spoke against it.
“We are being asked to redefine marriage,” he said. “We are redefining today in this bill the definition of marriage that has been the bedrock of society for thousands of years.”
State Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) cited 2,500 studies he said confirms the benefit of “traditional marriage for men, women and especially children.” State Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) added HF 1054 would remove “gender-specific terminology” from Minnesota’s marriage laws.
“There will be consequences intended and not intended to the very essence of who we are and what we become,” state Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) said.
Minnesota Family Council President Tom Prichard is among those who criticized lawmakers for supporting HF 1054.
“The passage of the marriage redefinition bill marks an unprecedented assault on the religious freedoms and the well-being of children,” he said.
The Minnesota Catholic Conference said in a statement it is “disappointed” legislators voted “to redefine the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
“In doing so, it has set in motion a transformation of Minnesota law that will focus on accommodating the desires of adults instead of protecting the best interest of children,” the group added. “This action is an injustice that tears at the fabric of society and will be remembered as such well into the future.”
Lawmakers on Thursday also rejected a proposed amendment to HF 1054 sponsored by state Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) that would have converted all Minnesota marriages to civil unions by a 22-111 vote margin.
The Minnesota Senate on Monday is scheduled to vote on the same-sex marriage bill.
Governor Mark Dayton has said he will sign it into law if lawmakers approve it.