Gay-marriage advocates know there will be ceremonial “first weddings” if the law goes into effect on Aug. 1, but even after Thursday’s resounding victory in the House, supporters don’t want to “jinx” their chances by presuming to celebrate already.
Sen. Scott Dibble, the bill’s lead Senate author, says he knows of a few couples that want to get married on Aug. 1, the first day that gay marriage would become legal under the legislation. But he made it clear that advocates aren’t yet planning a “larger community event” to celebrate until after the bill clears the Senate and hits Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk.
Richard Carlbom, who is leading the pro-gay marriage Minnesotans United for All Families campaign, wholeheartedly agreed. He said his team isn’t planning any celebrations past Tuesday, when the governor is expected to sign the bill.
“Folks don’t want to jinx this, and kind of want to take it one day at a time. No big plans in the works as of yet for Aug. 1. Don’t want to jinx or pre-ordain. Even I’m going to knock on wood here,” Dibble said, tapping on the railing of the large Capitol staircase he was walking down shortly after Thursday’s historic House vote to support gay marriage.
“Get the governor’s signature, then we’ll start the party planning,” he said, summing up the feelings of many gay marriage advocates in one, terse sentence.
Rotunda rally follows vote
But the remaining hurdles for gay marriage supporters did little to dampen their celebrations on Thursday.
A rally in the Capitol rotunda just after the vote featured all the key players from their side: Carlbom, Dibble, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, House Speaker Paul Thissen and Rep. Karen Clark, the bill’s lead House author.
Clark and Dibble waved to a roaring crowd outside the House chamber shortly after that body passed the marriage bill with a bipartisan 75-59 vote. Supporters lost two Democrats, but managed to pick up four Republicans in the final tally.
They moved through the cheering crowd, which was squished into the upper-level corridors of the Capitol’s second floor, and down into the rotunda as the “people’s house” reverberated with advocates chanting, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
Clark spread the love around during the rally, saying that lawmakers could never have passed the state’s first step toward gay marriage without supporters like those in attendance Thursday.
Minnesota will become the 12th state to legalize gay marriage if the bill makes it to Dayton’s desk.
Support for those who did ‘right thing’
But Clark was also careful to take note of the challenges ahead.
Majority Leader Erin Murphy agreed that lawmakers would need help even past the Senate vote on Monday, where the measure is expected to breeze through.
“Please keep working, and know that after Monday, we’re going to have to continue the work, have the conversation with everybody in Minnesota as we move in the direction of freedom for all,” Murphy told the gathered crowd.
Thissen was looking even further ahead than Murphy.
“We have to get through the Senate, we have to get the governor’s signature, but it can’t end there,” he said. “We have a lot of people who stood up today to do the right thing, and we are going to need to stand with them in the future, and I know you’re going to do that, because that’s how we got here together. So please don’t go home and let this … end.”
Rep. Joe Radinovich was one of the lawmakers who stood up “to do the right thing,” in Thissen’s eyes, despite having a rural district that likely won’t back his vote. “Today my heart is beating out of my chest,” the DFLer from Crosby said before casting a “yes” vote that could endanger his political future.
Radinovich and other rural Democrats were seen as the crucial swing votes in the weeks leading up to the floor debate, and Radinovich was one that lobbyists and reporters were watching to evaluate how the bill would fare.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Clark said she felt confident that she had the votes Wednesday night but was clearly floored by the 75-vote tally on the board. She also wasn’t as superstitious as Dibble in proclaiming victory in the Senate.
“We’ve got the votes in the Senate,” she said. “This is going to be a law very soon.”
There were also many predictable opponents to the measure, but all lawmakers commented on how fair and respectful the debate was. The calm that fell over the House chamber as lawmakers fought over one of the most politically divisive issues of this era was eerie.
Opponents’ arguments family-focused
The relatively short debate featured family-focused arguments from such GOP lawmakers as Rep. Peggy Scott, a Republican from Andover. She posed many of the issues that gay marriage opponents have raised since the anti-marriage amendment pendulum swung toward legalizing gay marriage this session.
Scott questioned whether the measure would be good for Minnesota’s kids, whether it would be helpful to have a genderless society or whether metro-area Democrats were forcing the issue on the rest of the state.
“While some folks are saying they want more marriage, is that going to be the reality that we experience here in the state of Minnesota?” she asked.
Thursday’s victory for gay marriage supporters was emotional.
Clark, who took a break from hugging her DFL colleagues and grinning to speak with reporters, said she felt “grateful, joyful and so happy.”
“My heart is going strong,” Clark said as supporters’ joyful screams flooded the House chamber. “When you love something and love somebody and love the people, I’m grateful to be part of this process. It’s so much bigger than me and even all the people in here. It’s just really about what that incredible energy out there is, which is love. That’s what it’s about.”