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Most visitors in the Minnesota Senate gallery celebrate Monday after senators approved allowing same-sex marriages in Minnesota. -- photo by Don Davis/Forum News Service

Minnesota senators 'vote for love'

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ST. PAUL -- Love and marriage soon will go together for Minnesota gays like they do for straight couples.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law Tuesday allowing gays to marry starting Aug. 1.

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The Senate adopted the measure Monday following Thursday's 75-59 House vote.

"Vote yes for love," Minnesota Sen. Scott Dibble told his colleagues Monday.

Enough senators agreed and gave the Minneapolis Democrat his wish of a Minnesota that allows same-sex couples to marry, the 12th state to allow it.

"Today we have the power, the awesome humbling power, to make dreams come true." Dibble said as a four-hour, three-minute debate wound down.

Senators voted 37-30 to remove a state law that bans same-sex marriage. Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, voted yes.

The vote followed a Thursday 75-59 House vote, leaving Gov. Mark Dayton's signature today the only step remaining before gays can marry starting Aug. 1.

Dayton signed the bill Tuesday on the front steps of the state Capitol, where large crowds gathered Thursday and Monday, mostly supporting gay marriage.

Monday's debate was civil and quiet, but still energetic, as Republican after Republican denounced gay marriage or tried to make the bill more palatable. Democrats, meanwhile, compared the historic debate to civil rights efforts of the 1960s.

Republicans argued that God opposes gay marriage, but Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, turned the tables on them.

"God made gays and God made gays capable of loving people," Latz said. "Who are we to quarrel with God's intentions?"

The two sides of the debate agreed on the importance of the Dibble bill.

"This is a once-in-a-generation kind of a bill," Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, said. "Pro or con, it doesn't matter."

"I can't think of another vote that I have taken that will impact so many people," Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, added.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said he is concerned for his grandchildren. "There are going to be some questions about family and family traditions."

While Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said that once the bill passes "it will be OK," but Ingebrigtsen wondered if it would.

"I am not quite so sure everything is going to be OK," said Ingebrigtsen, who said his area is firmly against gay marriage. "That is why I ask members to recognize the core of traditional marriage that we have had for thousands of years."

Dibble, who married his partner Richard Leyva in California in 2008, said that allowing gays to marry would make for stronger communities and state.

"It is a very simple bill, but sometimes the simplest bills are the most powerful in affecting people," Dibble said.

Moments after the vote, Dibble, Leyva, House bill sponsor Rep. Karen Clark of Minneapolis and other Democrats received a rousing welcome by the 2,800 people who jammed into the Capitol. Most of the people were gay-rights supporters, although a few opponents were on hand, mostly to pray.

Throughout the debate in the stately Senate chamber, the crowd's songs -- including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Give Love a Chance" and "America" -- filtered through the chamber's massive doors. Loud cheers could be heard from visitors watching television feeds of the debate after supporters spoke.

Senators were quiet during the debate as about 75 House members and Senate staffers lined the walls to watch history being made.

Among provisions Dibble emphasized in his bill are those that protect clergy and religious organizations. He said clergy would not be required to marry same-sex couples and his bill would not affect religious organizations' dealings with gay weddings.

Dibble said state law already only deals with civil marriage, but that his bill adds "civil" before "marriage" in state law to give those concerned about it affecting religious organizations more comfort.

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the bill does not go far enough to protect people who have "a contrary opinion." He said all religious organizations would not be protected and no business would be protected.

Dibble said that other than the gay-wedding provisions, there will be no changes in state law that already makes it illegal to discriminate against gays. "What is true today will be true tomorrow."

Same-sex marriage facts

Here are highlights of the gay marriage issue in Minnesota:

The law

Minnesota law has restricted marriage to between men and women, but a bill the governor signed Tuesday evening allow "civil marriages" between any two people other than close family members.

The law says that clergy and religion-related organizations are not required to participate in a gay marriage. "Civil" was added before "marriage" in state law to further clarify that clergy are not forced to marry gays.

However, opponents of the law say businesses and groups not closely affiliated with a church could be required to serve gay couples.

Looking ahead

Same-sex marriage will be legal as of Aug. 1.

While there is a five-day waiting period between when a license is purchased and a wedding, a judge may waive it, so some couples could be married on Aug. 1. The license will be the same as straight couples receive.

Numbers:

The federal Census Bureau reports 10,207 same-sex couples in Minnesota, nearly five of every 1,000 households.

A study indicates half of the same-sex couples will want to get married in the next three years.

Same-sex couples live across the state, but in the highest densities in the Twin Cities and northeastern Minnesota.

Fifty-four percent of same-sex couples are female and 46 percent male. Sixteen percent of same-sex couples are raising children they consider their own.

Other states:

While more than two dozen states have constitutional provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman, there appears to be a trend to allow same-sex marriages.

Other states allowing gay marriages are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington. Same-sex marriage will be allowed in Delaware beginning July 1 and, like in Minnesota, on Aug. 1 in Rhode Island. The Illinois Senate has passed a similar provision, but the House has not.

Minnesota is the first Midwest state to legislatively approve gay marriage. In Iowa, it was legalized by the state Supreme Court.

Some states, including Wisconsin, do not allow gay marriages, but have laws that provide some benefits for same-sex couples.

Federal court:

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering challenges to a federal law that prohibits gay marriage and a California law allowing it. A ruling should come this summer.

Money

A UCLA Williams Institute analysis claims that allowing gay couples to marry would provide Minnesota a $42 million economic boost in the first three years.

At the same time, officials estimate that state employees' gay spouses would cost the state $1.3 million in the next two years in health insurance benefits.

Minnesota history:

In 1971, bills were introduced to define marriage as a civil contract only between a man and a woman.

The 1997 Legislature passed a bill to ban gay marriage; it became law. A bill to authorize same-sex marriage also was introduced that year, but did not pass.

Bills were introduced in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage.

In 2009 and 2010, the Legislature considered bills to make marriage gender neutral. Other bills would have required Minnesota to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. At the same time, bills returned to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the Constitution.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Voters rejected the constitutional gay marriage ban in 2012, the first state to go against a tide of anti-gay marriage proposals. The campaign that turned back the amendment remained in force to lobby legislators to pass gay marriage.

This year, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed, and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed, a bill to overturn existing state law that banned gay marriage.

New benefits

Some benefits gay couples gain under the new law include, as reported by pro-gay marriage Project 515:

• Public health facilities are required to notify the family when a patient is moved or the patient's care changes.

• The spouse of a hospital patient is the first person a doctor consults if the patient cannot consent to treatment.

• Gays will be allowed to visit spouses in the hospital.

• Health and accident insurance policies will be able to cover gay couples.

• Schools will be able to deal with gay couples with children in early-childhood programs.

• Spouses of corporate board members are authorized to vote on behalf of the board member.

• A surviving spouse has rights when some businesses are inherited.

• Spouses receive workers' compensation benefits when a spouse is killed at work.

• Families of people killed during crimes are entitled to restitution.

• Someone married to a military member may vote by absentee ballot.

• Minnesotans may submit their spouses' political campaign donations.

• Spouses have the right to control disposition of spouses' remains.

• The surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer killed on duty may receive a $100,000 payment.

Federal laws, such as allowing couples to file a joint federal income tax return and those dealing with Social Security, are not affected by the state change. A summer U.S. Supreme Court decision could change that.

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