- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2013

The Minnesota Legislature became the 12th to pass gay marriage Monday, leaving just a handful of states that have yet to act definitively on the issue.

On a 37-30 vote, the state Senate passed House File 1054, which made marriage a sex-neutral union of two people, rather than a man and a woman. The state House on Thursday passed the bill 75-59.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who urged lawmakers to pass gay marriage earlier this year, said he will sign it as early as Tuesday.

Minnesota’s all-but-completed adoption of same-sex marriage follows that of Rhode Island and Delaware, whose lawmakers this month made their states the 10th and 11th to permit such nuptials.

The Minnesota vote also follows a dramatic November election in which voters not only rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but threw out the Republican leadership in both chambers.

Monday’s debate before the vote showed deep divisions in the state Senate.

“I am proud to cast this vote” for the bill, said state Sen. Jim Carlson, a member of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party who said gay friends convinced him that their love relationship was “really no different than the love I have for my wife of 40 years.”

The bill’s purpose is to permit people of the same sex to access civil marriage, which is different from religious marriage, said Democratic state Sen. Ron Latz.

“God made gays,” and they love who they love, he said. “So who are we to quarrel with God’s intentions?”

But Republican state Sen. Dan D. Hall warned that “this document will bring civil disobedience” and “split” churches, schools and communities.

“We’re nullifying every reference to a faith when it comes to marriage,” said Sen. Warren Limmer, one of the Republicans who supported adding a religious-protection amendment to the bill.

“I think there’s a lot of unintended consequences,” said Sen. Torrey N. Westrom, a Republican who worried words such as “mother,” “father,” “husband” and “wife” will eventually be stricken from Minnesota laws.

These amendments were defeated, and the bill passed by a comfortable margin. It permits gay marriages to begin Aug. 1.

A festive mood surrounded the State Capitol in St. Paul on Monday. The crowd roared when state Sen. D. Scott Dibble, the openly gay sponsor of the bill, ascended the steps. Be proud to “serve witness to the dream we all hold in our hearts,” he said. “This is your day. You made this happen.”

Mr. Dibble was legally married to his partner, Richard Leyva, in California almost five years ago. They said they plan to have an affirming ceremony in Minnesota the day after the bill becomes law.

“Today I just want to be a spectator of history. It is just so validating,” said Micah Thaun Tran, of Golden Valley, Minn., who said he and his partner are planning a fall wedding.

Gay-marriage opponents went to the statehouse too: Don Lee of Eagan, Minn., placed a tombstone on the front lawn with the words “R.I.P. Marriage 2013.”

“The legislation being passed today is the end of marriage as we know it in Minnesota,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s a transformation from a forward-looking, sacrificial institution to one focused on adult desires. People don’t realize the damage they are doing. It’s a fight against biology.”

John Helmberger, head of the main opposition group Minnesotans for Marriage, told supporters, “Pray today for God to intervene.”

Other states that have gay marriage are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Washington and New York, as well as the District of Columbia.

Many states have constitutional amendments against gay marriage, but battles are still likely in Illinois, New Jersey, Indiana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.