Minnesota Gay Marriage: House to Vote on Bill Thursday

On Thursday in St. Paul, the Minnesota House will vote on a bill that would legalize gay marriage, pending passage in the state Senate, and Gov. Mark Dayton's signature. If the bill becomes law, Minnesota will be the 12th state to enact marriage equality. Both opponents and supporters of the bill say they’re confident they have enough votes on their side, but supporters have the numbers and need not rely on a last-minute divine intervention.

The bill needs 68 votes to pass the House, which is currently controlled by a 73-member Democratic majority. House Speaker Paul Thissen says he expects they’ll have no problem getting enough votes, with or without any ballots from the GOP.

An 11th hour amendment may cater to Republican voters: tacking the word “civil” in front of “marriage.” The amendment means that both gay and straight marriages are “civil marriages,” which doesn’t make gay marriage any less legitimate or really change anything.

Republican Representative David FitzSimmons says the amendment offers "further reassurance that it's the state role in marriage and not the religious institutions we're talking about."

The amendment is meant to underline that the bill won’t impinge on religious freedom and to remind Republicans and the most vocal anti-gay marriage group, Minnesota for Marriage, that the Bible doesn’t hold water in a courthouse — a concept that seems curiously difficult for them to understand.

In addition to because-God-says-so arguments along with the charge that legal marriage will enable gays to succeed in their mission to destroy the American family, the opposition contends that the state should be focusing on other, more pressing matters, namely jobs and the budget.

Gay marriage was on the chopping block in Minnesota just six months ago, when voters defeated a proposition to ban gay marriage 47% to 52%. That vote marked a tide change in Minnesota politics: now an estimated 51% of the population support gay marriage, and the House, Senate, and Governor are all controlled by Democrats.

Minnesota’s legalization foreshadows gay marriage’s movement from the liberal peripherals to middle America.

If the bill passes today it goes to the Senate on Monday, where pundits also expect it to pass. DFL Senator Scott Dibble predicts, “I think it’ll be a strong vote. I don’t know if it’ll be overwhelming, but it’ll be a good, strong, solid vote.”

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton says he will sign the bill if it lands on his desk, which would mean same-sex couples can start booking weddings after August 1. In his annual State of the State address, Dayton announced to legislature, “I believe that every Minnesotan should have the freedom to marry legally the person she or he loves, whether of the same or other sex.” The audience stood and applauded.