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Same-sex marriage: Celebration, anticipation fill Capitol in hours before Senate vote

State Sen. Scott Dibble greeting gay marriage supporters at the State Capitol
MinnPost photo by James Nord
State Sen. Scott Dibble greeting gay marriage supporters at the State Capitol Monday morning.

The contrast couldn’t have been more stark in the hours before the historic vote in the Senate on same-sex marriage.

By 9:30 Monday morning, the steps of the Capitol and the rotunda were jammed with supporters of same-sex marriage. They were in a celebratory mood in anticipation of when — not IF — the Senate would follow the House lead in the process that will make Minnesota the 12th state (plus the District of Columbia) legalizing same-sex marriage.

A few feet from the rotunda,  about 20 foes of  same-sex marriage were on their knees, praying.

Larry Alberts, pastor of Blaine’s Our Way of the Lord Church, was asked if he felt those who believe as he does had lost.

“You can lose a battle and not the war,’’ Alberts said. “Minnesota has a destiny. It’s according to the Lord’s plan, not what happens here today.’’

It was hard to hear Alberts’ words because of the joyous roars of the supporters of same-sex marriage, who filled the rotunda, singing patriotic songs.

Sen. Scott Dibble, the author of the Senate bill, was weary (“I didn’t sleep at all last night’’) but smiling as he addressed the crowd on the steps outside the Capitol. He was greeted with huge cheers. People yelled, “We love you, Scott!’’ as he spoke words of appreciation for all those who had worked to make this day possible.

Dibble’s husband, Richard Leyva, smiled as he and Dibble were cheered wherever they turned.

“It’s like Rocky Balboa,’’ said Leyva.

Leyva and Dibble were married in California on Aug. 17, 2008. Assuming everything rolls on as expected in the next few days — that the Senate will vote for same-sex marriage and Gov. Mark Dayton quickly will sign the bill into law — their marriage will be recognized in Minnesota on Aug. 1.

Shortly after a surge of weddings late this summer, Leyva predicted the vast majority of Minnesotans quickly will become comfortable with same-sex marriage.

“We’ll just become boring couples dealing with the same things everybody else does,’’ Leyva said.

Dibble was wearing an old  Allan Spear campaign button on his lapel, in memory of the late senator who was among the first elected officials to announce that he was gay. That was in 1974.

Spear, a history prof at the University of Minnesota, was respected by most on both sides of the aisle. Spear, who retired in 2000, died in 2008 and was succeeded by Dibble. Spear led the legislative charge to give gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people the same civil rights protections as other minorities in Minnesota.

On this day, Dibble searched for words to express his emotions.

“I’m so proud to be a Minnesotan,’’ he said. “It’s an amazing day.’’

Dibble said he started to believe that same-sex marriage could be passed this session in the final days before last fall’s election.

“We’d had wonderful conversations with people across the state,’’ Dibble said. “You could tell that something had changed in Minnesota.’’

The roars from the ever-growing crowd grew louder.

“This is what democracy sounds like,’’ Dibble said.

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