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House votes to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota

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After an emotional debate, Minnesota House members put the state on a path toward recognizing same sex marriages, approving the measure on a 75-59 vote.

House approval was seen as a linchpin, since the Senate is expected to pass the bill in a vote scheduled for Monday and Gov. Mark Dayton has said he'll sign it into law. The legislation would allow same-sex marriages beginning Aug. 1.

Reaction from around the state was immediate – WCCO collected the tweets.

The approval represents a dramatic reversal in a state that only six months ago was considering a Constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriages.

Thursday's debate lasted more than two hours (see updates about the action in MPR's livestream blog). While the arguments were emotional, MPR reports they were also respectful. Here's how they voted.

Samples of the arguments selected by the Star Tribune include remarks from Shoreview DFLer Barb Yarusso, who said, “We come not to destroy marriage, but to uphold it for all.” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, a Republican from Crown, countered, "Heads and minds may be changing, but Minnesota is still divided and now is not the time.”

"My family knew firsthand that same sex couples pay our taxes, we vote, we serve in the military, we take care of our kids and our elders and we run businesses in Minnesota," said bill sponsor, Rep. Karen Clark, a Minneapolis Democrat who is gay, the Associated Press reported. "... Same-sex couples should be treated fairly under the law, including the freedom to marry the person we love."

KSTP reported that bill opponents argued the legislation would alter the traditional concept of marriage and leave those people opposed for religious reasons tarred as bigots.

"We're not. We're not," said Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, KSTP reported. "These are people with deeply held beliefs, including myself."

As lawmakers debated the bill, the chants of thousands of supporters and opponents were audible. Citizens filled the corridors of the Capitol and overflowed the building, with many standing outside in the rain. Extra security was there, too. FOX 9 has photos from the Capitol. KARE 11 provides video:

When it came time to vote, four Republicans joined the DFL majority in voting for the bill. One of them was Eden Prairie's Jenifer Loon, who told the AP she didn't make up her mind on how to vote until the debate was underway.

"There comes a time when you have to set politics aside and decide in your gut," Loon told FOX9.

There was speculation that a language tweak using the phrase "civil marriage" throughout the bill might open the door to support from Republicans looking for reassurance that churches would still have the option of refusing to marry same sex couples.

The author of that amendment, Republican Dennis FitzSimmons, voted for the bill. Pat Garofalo of Farmington and Andrea Kieffer of Woodbury were the other Republicans who voted yes. Two DFLers, Patti Fritz of Faribault and Mary Sawatzky of Willmar, voted no.

Minnesota For Marriage, the group leading opposition to the measure, is urging Senators to vote against it on Monday.

Supporters are also looking ahead to Monday. DFLer Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, the sponsor of the Senate bill, tells the Pioneer Press, "We've got a weekend of hard work ahead of us." Steve Simon of Hopkins, a co-sponsor, added "It's not time to uncork the champagne yet, but it's chilling."

It was just two years ago that a GOP-controlled Legislature put an amendment on the ballot that would have cemented a gay marriage ban in the Minnesota Constitution. That amendment failed in the November elections, also following an intense lobbying and advertising campaign.

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