Listen: House passes bill to allow same-sex marriage

MPR’s Tim Pugmire reports that six months after Minnesotans rejected a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage, the Minnesota House made an historic turn, voting to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

The House voted 75-59 to allow same-sex couples to be legally married in the state, sanctioning those civil unions and opening doors to financial and other government benefits they are now denied.


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SPEAKER 1: The Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation today to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. The vote was 75 to 59. Four Republicans joined majority Democrats on the prevailing side, while two rural DFLers voted against the bill. Lawmakers calmly debated the contentious issue for about three hours as large crowds of people packed Capitol hallways. Tim Pugmire reports.

TIM PUGMIRE: Supporters and opponents of the bill showed up hours before the debate was scheduled to begin. The turnout was heavy, and so was the security inside the State Capitol. Once the debate started inside the house chamber, chants from outside could still be heard.

SPEAKER 2: House will come to order.

TIM PUGMIRE: The legislation eliminates the prohibition of gay marriage and changes the legal definition of marriage from between a man and a woman to between two persons. For many supporters, it was the next logical step after last fall's defeat of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage along with Democrats winning control of the legislature. The Bill's chief author, DFL Representative Karen Clark of Minneapolis, said the historic change will bring legal fairness.

KAREN CLARK: It's become clear that most Minnesotans believe that marriage is a unique promise of love, commitment, responsibility, and fidelity that two people share, that we believe in Minnesota in treating others the way we would want to be treated, and that none of us would want to hold that it is illegal to marry the person we love.

TIM PUGMIRE: But for many republicans, the message from last fall's amendment defeat was not clear cut. GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt of Crown questioned the timing of the vote.

KURT DAUDT: What we learned in November more than anything is that this is an issue that deeply divides Minnesotans. What we did not learn is that Minnesotans want us to redefine marriage. My message today is one of caution.

TIM PUGMIRE: Republican representative Peggy Scott of Andover said she was pleased with the respectful debate, but troubled by the bill's potential impact on marriage and families.

PEGGY SCOTT: This bill removes from our laws gender-specific terminology-- husband, wife, mother, father. Is this what we want? Is this what is best for our children and our grandchildren?

TIM PUGMIRE: But DFL Representative Barb Yarusso of Shoreview said Minnesota should celebrate that same-sex couples are clamoring to get married.

BARB YARUSSO: We come not to destroy marriage, but to uphold it for all.

TIM PUGMIRE: Leading up to the vote, there was a lot of attention on rural Democrats who represent districts that supported the marriage amendment. DFL Representative Andrew Falk of Murdock, a late addition to the yes column, said he thought a lot about his own recent marriage in making his decision.

ANDREW FALK: It just makes me think about what our marriage means, and it's about happiness, and it's about love, and it's about a partnership, and it's about commitment. And there is no way I could in good conscience deny those exact same rights to my fellow Minnesotans.

TIM PUGMIRE: Freshman DFL Representative Joe Radinovich of Crosby has already taken heat from some of his constituents on the issue, but he still voted yes.

JOE RADINOVICH: For me, this is a vote for freedom and equality. This is a vote for the rights of all of my constituents.

TIM PUGMIRE: Two DFL representatives, Patti Fritz of Faribault and Mary Sawatzky of Willmar, voted against the bill. Heading into the debate, no Republican had publicly supported the bill and none spoke in support of it on the floor. Freshman GOP Representative David FitzSimmons of Albertville successfully amended the bill to reword state marriage laws with the term civil marriages. Fitzsimons, who ended up supporting the bill, said the Amendment would strengthen its religious protections.

DAVID FITZSIMMONS: There's a distinction between what is happening at the courthouse and what is happening in your church and your synagogue and any other house of worship. So I believe that's an important distinction for us to make. I believe we have to spell that clearly in law.

TIM PUGMIRE: The other GOP votes came from representatives Pat Garofalo of Farmington, Andrea Kieffer of Woodbury, and Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie. The DFL-controlled Minnesota Senate is expected to pass the measure on Monday and send it to Governor Mark Dayton, who has said he will sign the bill. Minnesota would become the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Delaware joined the list earlier this week. Tim pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio News at the Capitol.

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