by Howard Lestrud
ECM Political Editor
Swaying a large family photo from side to side in the State Capitol rotunda on Thursday afternoon, Brad Weber of Eden Prairie was jubilant upon learning that the gay marriage bill had passed the Minnesota House of Representatives by a 75-59 vote.
The photo Weber was waving was one of him and his partner, Ryan Pfeifle, with their two children, Kyle, 12 and Josh, 11.
It is now very possible that Weber and Pfeifle may celebrate their 10th anniversary by observing the same-sex marriage law officially going into effect on Aug. 1 of this year.
“Our kids know this is very important for our family,” Weber said. “It’s about the kids,” he said. The boys were legally adopted through the state.
“Now, finally as adults, we get to have a legal binding contract,” Weber said. “This becoming law will complete our family and have it legally recognized,” Weber pointed out.
Two major steps remain before the marriage legislation becomes law. A bill supporting gay marriage goes before the Senate on Monday, May 13. The Senate will convene at 1 p.m.
If the Senate passes the bill, it is expected that Gov. Mark Dayton will sign the bill on Tuesday, May 14. Minnesota will then become the 12th state in the nation to have legalized marriage for couples of the same sex.
All day, supporters of the same-sex marriage legislation and opponents often demonstrated side by side. The loudest retort, however, during most of the day came in front of the House chambers from proponents of the legislation. Supporters often chanted the words “equality in marriage.”
Songs were also sung by supporters including “Going to the chapel and we’re gonna get married.”
Supporters and opponents of the House legislation watched closed circuit television of the House proceedings. Many House members spoke in favor and against the legislation. Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, carried the legislation. She was immediately hugged and congratulated by many of her colleagues on the House floor following the roll call vote. Senate author of the bill, Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis,rushed onto the House floor to congratulate Clark.
Attention then focused in the hallways as supporters chanted “Thank you, thank you.” Some of the most vocal House members for the legislation then emerged and went directly to the crowd to share the first step of approval of the legislation.
Most of the supporters wore t-shirts carrying the organization name, Minnesotans United for All Families. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was even in the crowd of supporters who were chanting “We want Karen, we want Karen.”
Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for the opposition efforts against the marriage amendment last year, said he was overjoyed with the House vote. Carlbom acted as moderator in the Capitol Rotunda for a series of speakers following the vote.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, was another author on the same-sex marriage bill in the House. “We are one step closer to a new day in Minnesota,” Simon said in comments made to a very joyful and supportive audience. “Some day we’re going to be sipping champagne but we have two stops remaining,” Simon said, explaining that Senate passage and the governor’s signature remained to be accomplished before the bill becomes law.
“It’s not time to uncork the champagne yet but it’s chilling,” Simon said.
“This is Karen Clark’s day,” Dibble said in directing praise to her efforts over many year. “Let’s celebrate today and then get back to work,” Dibble said. Clark was on the podium with her partner, Jacqueline.
Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Blaine, is one of few Republicans in either the House or Senate supporting the legislation. Four Republicans voted with Democrats on the House bill. “What a time for equal justice,” Petersen said.
House Majority Leader Rep. Erin Murphy, D-St. Paul, and Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, that the day was historical in bringing people to the Capitol on different sides, but with respect. “We are proud that the Golden Rule is standing right here,” Speaker Thissen said. “We should treat people the way we want to be treated,” he added.
Speaker Thissen shifted from the same-sex legislation, saying there is “lots of work” to complete in the next 10 days. “When everybody is valued as participants and respected for who we are, this is a victory for Minnesota,” Thissen said.
Carlbom said he was asking supporters take three more steps, first, write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper; secondly, call your senator and show up at the Capitol on Monday and lastly, “we got your back.”
Howard Lestrud can be reached at [email protected]