Congratulations are in order for the Minnesota Legislature, which approved a landmark same-sex marriage bill this week.
A lion’s share of credit for the bill’s success goes to Richard Carlbom, the former mayor of St. Joseph, who is campaign manager for “Minnesotans United for All Families.” Carlbom and his staff worked hard to change minds and hearts toward passage of this bill. He was also influential in convincing Minnesotans to vote against a law last year that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman only.
Four of the House’s six Republicans voted for the bill. Two of the 73 Democrats voted against it. The only legislator voting for the bill from the central Minnesota area was Rep. Zachary Dorholt (DFL-St. Cloud). Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) voted against the bill because he said he is concerned about the law’s effect on non-profit groups that may object to same-sex marriage.
Minnesota now joins 11 other states that have legalized same-sex marriage. Delaware and Maryland approved their laws just two weeks ago.
Most of the Democrats who voted for the bill are from rural districts where opposition to same-sex marriage is strongest. Those representatives showed courage and conviction in voting according to their conscience, in doing what they felt is the right thing to do – allowing access to basic rights for all Minnesotans.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls.), who is gay. She said her goal was always equal treatment in state laws for same-sex couples. In a speech, she mentioned her own family members’ strong support for her when she revealed her sexual preference to them years ago.
“My family knew first-hand same-sex couples pay our taxes, we vote, we serve in the military, we take care of our kids and our elders, and we run businesses in Minnesota,” Clark said.
Another powerful statement came from Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), one of the four Republicans who voted for the bill. Loon said she made up her mind only while hearing testimony during the House debate on the issue.
“There comes a time,” she said, “when you just have to set politics aside and decide in your gut what is the right thing to do.”
There have always been passionate feelings on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue, and there probably always will be. Many sincerely object to it on religious grounds, but it should be remembered the law does not force churches to marry same-sex couples. A series of polls in recent years show an increasing support for same-sex marriage, especially among younger people. The increase in support could well stem from the weakness of the arguments against same-sex marriage – that somehow it would demean or ruin marriage as an institution. That argument is simply not a compelling one, especially when marriage is considered a civil right.
The military now allows gays to serve their country. Minnesota’s historic step is yet another victory for human rights. It will not be the last as more states and possibly even the U.S. Congress will finally recognize full marriage rights for all Americans.