The Minnesota House of Representatives approved a bill legalizing marriage equality Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 75-59, including "aye" votes from four Republicans. The bill will likely be heard by the full state Senate next week.
The legislation, House File 1054, provides for marriage between any two adults but would not require religious institutions or individuals to perform or recognize same-sex marriages.
The House spent a good deal of time debating an amendment proposed by Republican representative Tim Kelly, which would have created civil unions for same-sex couples rather than equal marriage rights. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 22-111.
"In Minnesota, we don't turn our backs on family," said out lesbian representative and bill sponsor Karen Clark during the three-hour debate, during which supporters and opponents could be heard chanting outside the closed chamber doors.
Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign the bill if it reaches his desk. In November, Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned marriage for same-sex couples.
"Today's historic vote by the Minnesota House of Representatives is a very large step toward the freedom to marry for Minnesotans," said Democratic Senator Scott Dibble in a statement. "We have cleared one of the final obstacles on our journey toward greater equality...But even after today's victory and after my colleagues and I in the Senate vote to put this bill on Governor Dayton's desk to be signed into law, this vital conversation will continue across Minnesota. Our finish line is crossed only after Minnesota is a state where all Minnesotans have the freedom to marry the person they love, and where every family, in every neighborhood, in every community is valued."
A Senate committee approved the legislation in March. If the legislation passes the Democrat-controlled Senate, as it is expected to do next week, and the governor signs the bill, Minnesota would become the 12th state to enact marriage equality and the first Midwestern state to do so legislatively. Same-sex couples could begin marrying August 1, reports Pam's House Blend. The Iowa Supreme Court mandated marriage equality in that state in a unanimous decision in 2009.