Minnesota Senate Sends Gay Marriage Measure to Dayton

Minnesota’s Senate approved same-sex marriage, sending the measure to Governor Mark Dayton, whose signature would make his the 12th U.S. state where gays can wed.

The state’s upper chamber, led by Democrats, voted 37-30 in St. Paul today on the bill, which would take effect Aug. 1. The Democratic-led House approved it last week. Dayton, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, has said people have a constitutional right to marry those they love.

“Sometimes the simplest bills are the most powerful in affecting peoples’ lives for the better,” Senator Scott Dibble of the DFL party said during floor debate. “With just a few words we have the ability to bring loving families across the entire state of Minnesota to the full sunshine of equality and freedom that they’ve been denied for so long.”

Dibble married his husband in California during the narrow window in 2008 when it was legal there.

Minnesota would become the second Midwestern state to grant gays the right to wed, after legalization in neighboring Iowa came by way of a court ruling in 2009. The law’s passage creates an archipelago of states beyond the East and West coasts, where most of the 11 states that already have such laws are located. House members in nearby Illinois may be the next to act, after the state senate approved a bill in February.

Untouched Constitution

Six months ago, Minnesota voters spurned an effort to amend their constitution to keep gays from marrying. It’s the third state in less than two weeks to approve gay marriage, following Rhode Island and Delaware.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Washington, Iowa, New York, and Maryland, in addition to the District of Columbia.

Senator Warren Limmer, a Minnesota Republican who voted against the bill, said it didn’t go far enough in protecting religious organizations and people who oppose gay vows.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, a Washington-based group, said in a statement last week after the House vote that opponents will not back down.

“Minnesota will someday, once again, reflect the truth about marriage in its laws, of that we are confident,” he said. “The recent actions in Minnesota should serve as a wakeup call to other states that have not yet passed marriage protection amendments: If you do not protect marriage proactively in your constitution, the powerful and wealthy gay marriage lobby will target your state for their next campaign to change your laws.”

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