Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) today signed into law a measure that allows same-sex couples access to civil marriage licenses, making the North Star State the 12th state to legalize marriage equality.
At a signing ceremony outside the Capitol in St. Paul, Dayton invoked the founding principles of the country, as found in the Declaration of Independence's promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ensures equal protection under the law.
The marriage-equality bill passed the state Senate on a 37-30 vote Monday, with 36 Democrats and Republican Branden Petersen (R-Andover) voting in favor and 27 Republicans and 3 Democrats - Lyle Koenen (D-Clara City), LeRoy Stumpf (D-Plummer) and Dan Sparks (D-Austin) - voting against. It passed the House of Representatives on May 9 by a 75-59 vote that saw four Republicans - David FitzSimmons (R-Albertville), Jennifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), Andrea Kieffer (D-Woodbury) and Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) - voting with 71 of the lower chamber's 73 Democrats to ensure passage, while two other Democrats, Mary Sawatzky (D-Willmar) and Patti Fritz (D-Faribault) voted against.
During speeches following Dayton's signing of the law given by prominent legislative leaders and activists who were crucial to the bill's success, House Speaker Paul Thissen (D-Minneapolis) said that the way in which proponents advocated on behalf of the marriage-equality bill and changed hearts and minds through one-on-one conversations could be a model, not just for marriage equality, but for how to move Minnesota forward. Other speakers, including out lesbian Rep. Karen Clark (D-Minneapolis) and out gay Sen. Scott Dibble (D-Minneapolis), used the opportunity to celebrate how far the marriage-equality bill has come in the two years since the then-Republican-controlled Legislature forced a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage onto the 2012 ballot. Minnesota voters later rejected the amendment, with 53 percent voting against it, and voted to put Democrats in charge of the Legislature, making passage of a pro-LGBT measure like marriage-equality possible.
Minnesota same-sex couples will be able to marry starting Aug. 1, when the law takes effect.
Other states, including New Jersey, Nevada and Oregon, are also pushing seeing efforts toward marriage equality. In Illinois, which has no constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has called on legislators in his state's House of Representatives to pass a marriage-equality bill that was passed by the state Senate on Valentine's Day by a 34-21 vote. With Democrats holding a supermajority in both chambers, the bill's success relies on attracting the support of rank-and-file Democrats, particularly African-American lawmakers and those who represent areas with large amounts of conservative Democrats, such as the Northwest and Southwest sides of Chicago and the vote-rich "collar counties" that surround Cook County.
[Photo: Gov. Mark Dayton (courtesy of the governor's office).]