The Minnesota Senate today voted in favor of repealing the state ban on same-sex marriage and extending the institution of marriage to same-sex couples. This final vote, 37-30 cements equal marriage for same-sex couples, and Democratic governor Mark Dayton has agreed to sign the bill tomorrow. Same-sex couples will be able to marry as of August 1.
The vote makes Minnesota the twelfth state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry. It also makes Minnesota the first state in the midwest where lawmakers have made same-sex marriage legal, in contrast Iowa, where that state’s supreme court ruled the Iowa constitution actually made a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
The populace of Minnesota is one of the best-educated in the nation. It’s also a highly religious state, with a large percentage of residents being Roman Catholic, Protestant and Lutheran.
In fact, today’s debate began with discussions of religious protections for “religious-affiliated” institutions like the YMCA or Northwestern, a Christian college, that will not be able to discriminate against same-sex couples, as Sen. Warren Limmer lamented.
This argument has been made in every state’s debate on same-sex marriage, but the issue has nothing to do with marriage laws, rather each state’s anti-discrimination laws, which do not allow “free and fair open access in the marketplace,” as Senator Scott Dibble (image, right,) the bill’s sponsor, also noted.
“In the marketplace… we don’t discriminate against people. This is the United States of America,” Sen. Dibble told Sen. Limmer.
Republican Senator Paul Gazelka, one of the bill’s most-outspoken opponents, and who attended Oral Roberts University, attempted to obtain “religious protections” for anyone who might come in contact with a same-sex couple who wish to marry, including photographers and universities. In reality, the amendment would allow discrimination against anyone for any reason. “A Lutheran bakery can refuse service to a couple for a Catholic wedding,” Sen. Dibble noted. At closing, Sen. Gazelka claimed, embarrassingly, “I stand for all people even gay people and I’m against this bill.”
Senator Jeff Hayden spoke at length about his long marriage, his children he is so proud of, and after a few minutes noted his wife is white. Sen. Hayden is African-American. He compared marriage equality to the African-American civil rights movement, noting he would not be able to speak about his children because he would not have been able to marry his wife. “I think when we come back here in a year, we’re gonna see that everything’s going to be okay,” Hayden told his colleagues.
Not all were as insightful as Sen. Hayden.
“The question is, are homosexual marriages good for children?,” Senator Dan Hall (image, left) asked, adding “there will be unintended — and I believe intended — consequences” by passing the same-sex marriage bill.
Hall also claimed there would be more “indoctrination” with the marriage bill. “Do you really want what Europe has? They’re on the brink of disaster.”
“This document wil bring civil disobedience, hurt businesses, confuse children, more than any issue since the Civil War,” Senator hall proclaimed.
Debate lasted just over four hours. Despite how contentious the debate became, it was respectful and not laced with the extreme homophobia and ignorance marked by other state debates.
Senator Scott Dibble closed by stating he and his husband, whom he married in California before prop 8 passed, are “legal strangers.”
“I’m a lucky guy, “‘ve met the person I can’t live without. Richard and I have a love I can’t begin to describe,” Sen. Dibble said. “Today we have the power. The awesome, humbling power to make dreams come true.”
“Vote yes for love,” Dibble urged.
And he read a poem by Langston Hughes on equality, “Let America be America Again.”
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