May 13, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Minnesota Senate approves marriage bill

Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Minnesota Senate on Monday approved a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in the state.

The 37-30 vote took place four days after the measure passed in the state House of Representatives.

“I am proud to be a Minnesotan today,” gay state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) said before lawmakers approved House File 1054. “Today we have the power — the awesome, humbling power — to make dreams come true.”

State Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) referenced his sister who has been with her partner for 16 years as he spoke in support of the bill.

“We have nothing to fear from love and commitment,” he said.

An emotional state Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) evoked the Declaration of Independence before he announced he would vote for HF 1054. State Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis,) who is originally from Colombia, explained her support for the measure to her family members and others in Spanish.

“My work is for justice,” she said.

Lawmakers rejected two proposed amendments to HF 1054 that state Sens. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) introduced that would have expanded religious exemptions and kept “mother, father” and “husband, wife” in Minnesota laws.

State Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) stressed marriage exists to “bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife.”

“Dismantling marriage will bring hurt, shame, confrontation and more indoctrination,” he said.

Assistant Minority Leader Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) stressed HF 1054 did not protect faith associations, corporations and non-profits that receive public funds who oppose same-sex marriage based on their religious beliefs.

“While advancing the rights of some, this bill denies the rights of others in the process,” she said.

Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) said the state would “go down that road of taking mother and father out of our recognition of what our children” if lawmakers approved HF 1054. Assistant Minority Leader Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) added she feels “our very nature” and not statute defines marriage.

“While Minnesota statutes will change today, the foundational truth of this uniqueness will remain,” she said before the vote.

Neighboring Iowa is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can currently marry.

Delaware’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on July 1, while gays and lesbians can begin to tie the knot in Rhode Island on Aug. 1.

Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage in the state as between a man and a woman.

“The Minnesota Senate has just taken a historic step towards affirming what we already know to be true: Marriage is about the love, commitment, and responsibility that two people share,” Minnesotans United, which led the campaign in support of HF 1054, said after the vote. “It is time to stop denying that to some Minnesotans just because of who they are.”

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye last week reaffirmed to the Washington Blade President Obama’s support for marriage rights for gays and lesbians in response to HF 1054’s passage in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by the states, he believes all couples should be treated fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” Inouye said. “As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so.”

Same-sex marriage opponents quickly criticized HF 1054’s passage.

“The full social and legal effects of marriage redefinition will begin to manifest themselves in the years ahead,” the Minnesota Catholic Conference said in a statement.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann reaffirmed her opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians shortly before state senators approved HF 1054. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said advocates for nuptials for gays and lesbians who campaigned against the state’s proposed marriage amendment “because Minnesota already had a traditional marriage law on the books” had changed it and “imposed genderless marriage.”

“Legislators who voted to redefine marriage were foolish to do so,” he added. “They cast a terrible vote that damages society, tells children they don’t deserve a mother and a father and brands supporters of traditional marriage as bigots. We predict that this vote will be career ending for many legislators in Minnesota.”

Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to sign the bill into law on the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul tomorrow at 5 p.m. (6 p.m. in D.C.) local time.

Chris Johnson contributed to this story.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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