Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Tuesday (May 14) afternoon legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.
The legislation, which goes into effect Aug. 1, makes Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
“What a difference a year and an election make in Minnesota!” Dayton said to the jubilant crowd of thousands spilling down the State Capitol steps and across the street to the mall below.
“By your political courage, you join the that pantheon of exceptional leaders, who did something extraordinary — you changed the course of history for our state and nation,” Dayton told assembled Democratic lawmakers gathered around the podium.
Dayton signed the marriage legislation shortly after 5 p.m. with the gleaming State Capitol dome as a backstop. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, Senate bill author, and Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, House author, stood next to the governor as he signed the historic legislation.
Both gay legislators had their partners at their side.
“This is so much about family,” Clark said.
Dibble spoke admiringly of the enduring spirit of same-sex marriage advocates. “I’ve seen your energy grow with every step and every step back,” he said.
House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the word that came to mind thinking about the struggle over marriage was the word “faith.”
He credited legislators with advancing the marriage bill, “especially those four brave Republicans in the House,” he said.
Thissen acknowledged the votes cast by Republicans representatives Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie, and Pat Garofalo of Farmington, and two other House Republicans drew a loud cheer from the crowd.
In the Senate, Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, was the sole Republican voting for the legislation Monday as it cleared its last legislative hurdle.
Besides members of the crowd yelling “Thank you” at the lawmakers, others yelled “We’ll watch your back.”
Dayton spoke of the nation’s founders as having bold aspirations, but poor implementation of freedom.
They wrongly denied equal rights to and protections to women, African-Americans, other racial minorities, Dayton said.
“They also left out GLBT men and women, if you believe, as I do, that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness certainly includes the right to marry the person you love,” he said.
But recent polls suggest Minnesotans remain divided over same-sex marriage.
An April KSTP/SurveyUSA poll showed a bare majority of Minnesotans, 51 percent, favored changing state law to legalize same-sex marriage.
According to The Williams Institute’s analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, there were some 10,207 same-sex couples living in Minnesota, representing 4.9 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minnesota ranks 23rd among the states and Washington D.C. in terms of same-sex couples.
North Dakota and South Dakota had the lowest percentages, with Delaware, Massachusetts, Vermont, California and Oregon having the highest.
According to the U.S. Census 2010 American Community Survey, there are about 594,000 same-sex couple households in the United States.
Out of these households, some 115,000 reported having children.
About one quarter of same-sex couple households reported they were spouses.
In states with same-sex marriage, about 42 percent of same-sex couple households were reported as spouses as compared to about 28 percent for states with domestic partnerships or civil unions, and about 23 percent for all other states.
Between 2000 to 2010, the number of same-sex couple households in Minnesota increased around 50 percent, according to the Survey.
Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected]