MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Minnesotans sound off House vote

MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Minnesotans sound off House vote

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Same-sex marriage supporters sing the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love’ outside the Minnesota House chambers on May 9, 2013. Photo by Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News. Same-sex marriage supporters sing the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love’ outside the Minnesota House chambers on May 9, 2013. Photo by Tim Blotz / FOX 9 News.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Thousands flocked to the Capitol as a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota was put up for a full House vote on Thursday.

Both supporters and activists came with signs and chants for lawmakers, but when the final vote of 75-59 in favor of passage was announced, cheers erupted in the rotunda.

"I'm speechless," said Elisa Kramer. "I've waited my whole adult life for this moment."

It was 43 years ago this month that Jack Baker and Michael McConnel tried to get married in Hennepin County just one year after Stonewall. The couple, now in their 70s, is still together.

So much history has happened in the past two years just in Minnesota, and some who gathered at the Capitol were stunned by how much has changed.

"Phenomenal -- I was a candidate for electroshock therapy when I came out in 1966," Dick Buggs told FOX 9 News. "It's been a huge journey in my lifetime."

To go from a proposed amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in the state Constitution to the vote to legalize it, the state has seen a swift switch.

Opponents were not only outnumbered at the Capitol on Thursday, they knew they did not have the votes to prevent the bill's passage. Some have predicted lawsuits to come.

EXTRA SECURITY

The Minnesota State Patrol called for extra security to be on hand at the Capitol to ensure a peaceful environment as lawmakers prepared to debate, but an unprecedented tone of civility and respect was seen both in the House chamber and the rotunda where citizens had gathered.

A memo advised lawmakers that 30 to 40 additional patrols will be in the area. Guest passes for floor access were not allowed.

Same-sex marriage supporters and opponents were shoulder-to-shoulder in the Capitol Rotunda hours ahead of the debate. Supporters clad in orange T-shirts sang the Beatles' "All You Need is Love," raising their "I support the freedom to marry" signs alongside the red "Vote no" signs of opponents.

As the clock ticked toward the noon hour of debate, the chanting for both sides grew so loud that it could be heard from the media room in the basement.

'SOCIETY CHANGING' MOMENT

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday said the vote on marriage equality is a "society changing breakthrough moment."

House Speaker Paul Thissen said the scheduled vote indicated supporters of marriage equality have the 68 votes needed to pass the bill. Many were surprised by the final tally of 75 in favor.

"I think of my partner in college who committed suicide, so it's been a long journey but an incredible journey," Buggs said.

NEXT STEPS

The Senate scheduled a floor vote on the bill for Monday, May 13, with session likely to convene at 11 a.m.

The legislative session ends May 20.

Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign the bill, and its passage would mean same-sex marriages could commence Aug. 1.

LAST-MINUTE CHANGES

Ahead of the historic debate, Rep. David FitzSimmons (R-Albertville) offered an amendment to the Freedom to Marry Act (H.F. 1054) inserted the word "civil" in front of "marriage" in Minnesota state statute.

The change is credited with securing four votes from Republican lawmakers and intended to ease  concerns of some churches in the state.

BILL STATUS

Read the marriage equality bill, and see its status, at http://bit.ly/11jDMgx

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