At precisely 5 p.m., Gov. Mark Dayton stepped from a podium set up on the front steps of the Capitol to a small wooden desk, sat down and made Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
“What a difference a year and an election make in Minnesota!” said Dayton, a vocal supporter of the push to allow gays and lesbians to marry. “Last year, there were concerns that marriage equality would be banned forever. Now, my signature will make it legal in two and one-half months.”
As he signed multiple copies of the bill the state Senate approved Monday, a crowd of thousands enveloped the Capitol with roars and cheers for the third time in less than a week.
The bill’s chief authors, Minneapolis DFLers Rep. Karen Clark and Sen. Scott Dibble, followed the governor with remarks, but for many in the crowd — especially those there accompanied by someone they had the right to marry for the first time in their lives — history had already been rewritten.
Despite blistering heat, the crowd blanketed the lawn and covered the broad expanse of stairs leading into the Capitol, where some of the senators who orchestrated Monday’s vote were still hard at work bringing the session to a close.
Flanked by dozens of state officials, LGBT activists, faith community leaders and other supporters, Dayton asked the crowd to thank the lawmakers for taking a risk.
“Thank you! Thank you!” the throng chanted in unison. And later, in what became the unofficial rallying cry of the week, “We’ve got your back, we’ve got your back.”
Even as the governor and lawmakers wrapped up their remarks, people continued to flow into the Capitol area waving American flags and rainbow banners.
Forty-five minutes after he picked up a pen, the governor sent the crowd on its way to a party planned for downtown St. Paul. “Go have fun,” he said. “Love is the law!”