ST. PAUL, Minn. - Hundreds of people on both sides of the gay marriage issue are loudly expressing their viewpoints at the Minnesota Capitol where the House is expected to cast a historic vote on legislation legalizing same-gender unions.
Demonstrators filled the hallway outside the House chambers Thursday where debate was expected to begin at midday. Supporters of gay marriage, dressed in orange T-shirts, held up signs that read "I Support The Freedom to Marry." Behind them, opponents held up bright pink signs that simply said "Vote No."
State lawmakers have been advised that 30 to 40 additional uniformed officers will be on hand to maintain a safe environment during debate Thursday.
Among the demonstrators swarming the Capitol Rotunda was 27-year-old Grace McBride, a nurse from St. Paul. She says she and her partner felt compelled to be there to watch history unfold Thursday.
McBride says she's thought about her wedding since she was a little girl, and hopes to get married as soon as possible if the bill becomes law.
The legislation, if passed, would allow it starting Aug. 1.
McBride says the movement has come a long way in two years since the Legislature sent a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage to the ballot. The campaign to defeat it laid the groundwork for the legalization vote, which is expected later Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote Monday.
A memo from House leaders on the stepped-up presence says the gallery overlooking the floor will be restricted more than usual, and guest passes for floor access won't be allowed.
If the House approves the bill it heads to the Senate for a vote Monday. Gov. Mark Dayton says he would sign the law making Minnesota the 12th state to allow gay marriage.
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