After over four hours of debate, the Minnesota Senate voted 37–30 on Monday to pass marriage equality legislation, cementing Minnesota as the 12th state to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. The vote was largely along party lines, with only three Democrats voting no and only one Republican, Sen. Branden Petersen, voted yes. The House passed the bill on Thursday with a 75–59 vote, and Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) has promised to sign it as early as Tuesday. It will take effect August 1st.
Throughout the discussion, conservative opponents attempted to amend the bill to create religious exemptions from the state’s nondiscrimination protections. These efforts would have allowed private businesses like bakers, florists, and photographers — which are not inherently religious — to willfully deny service to same-sex couples. These attempts to legalize discrimination failed.
Just this past November, Minnesota voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage. Since then, support for marriage equality has only continued to grow, with a recent poll showing that a majority of Minnesotans now favor the change. Division remains among those who live in urban and rural areas, and many Democratic lawmakers from rural areas faced tough decisions because of the social conservative views of many of their constituents.
Anticipating today’s vote, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (DFL) renamed the Wabasha Bridge across the Mississippi River as the “Freedom to Marry Bridge” for this week, and it was adorned with rainbow flags flanking its breadth.
Minnesota is the third state to pass marriage equality in 2013, joining Delaware and Rhode Island. When Minnesota defeated its anti-gay amendment in November, three other states successfully passed marriage equality: Maryland, Maine, and Washington. That’s progress in six states in just over six months. Illinois’s legislature may still consider a same-sex marriage bill before the session is over.