ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Governor Mark Dayton signed the Freedom to Marry Act into law Tuesday on the State Capitol steps, in front of throngs of elated onlookers.
The law goes into effect August 1, and will give same-sex couples the right to marry in Minnesota and will recognize those marriages licenses already granted to same-gender couples who wed in other states where it was legal.
Dayton signed the bill on a sweltering, sunny, 98-degree day in St. Paul, surrounded by the bill's chief authors and other lawmakers who had worked for marriage equality for many years.
It came one day after the Minnesota Senate passed the bill, which had cleared the House on Thursday. It makes Minnesota the 12th state to legalize gay marriage, and the first one in the Midwest to do it through legislation.
"By your political courage you joined that pantheon of exceptional leaders who did something truly extraordinary," Dayton told the legislators who passed the bill.
"You changed the course of history for our state and our nation."
Dayton cited the language of the Declaration of Independence, which stated that "all men are created equal" and are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
He said the nation's founders had left women and racial minorities out of that dream of basic equality, and that people in those segments of American society had to fight to gain equal standing under the law.
"They also left out GLBT men and women," Dayton remarked.
"If you believe as I do life, liberty and pursuit of happiness certainly include the right to marry the person you love."
Sen. Scott Dibble, the author of the marriage bill in the Senate, stood behind Dayton as he signed it. Next to Dibble was his husband, Richard Leyva.
The two were married in California while it was still legal there, and Leyva has appeared often at Capitol to provide Dibble moral support as he has slowly persuaded his colleagues that 2013 was the year to act.
"It's the dream of a life filled with joy, a happy, healthy family," Sen. Dibble told the crowd of hundreds that spread out across the Capitol's south lawn.
"It sounds so normal, and it's going to come true."
Dibble said that the law will allow future couples to share the joy of a marriage without even considering the political battles that made it possible.
"People who will never know who we are, never know our names," Dibble said. "Now that's a legacy we can be proud of today."
Rep. Karen Clark, who carried the bill in the House, said she has dreamed of this day since she first joined the legislature in 1981. She held up a photo of her now-deceased parents marching in a parade in 1993 to support her.
"This sign carried by my mom Millie and my dad Joseph says, 'Our gay children should have the same rights as our heterosexual children'. That was 20 years ago."
The bill passed just six months after voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at banning gay marriage, one placed on the ballot when Republicans controlled the legislature.
Clark said the battle over that amendment created the grassroots momentum it took to prompt lawmakers to push ahead for legalization this year, rather than waiting until public opinion polls supported the idea.
"I thank all of my colleagues here who did the right thing for us, for all of the future, for our children, for our families!"
Among those in the crowd was Eldeanne Dore of Mankato, who plans to get married to her partner Kim Turner.
"I think the amendment got people talking, and got more people to come out," Dore told KARE.
"Ten years ago people were afraid to be out."
She said people she work with in Mankato told her she was the first gay person they'd ever met.
"And then in the election in November, they said, 'We voted no.' I'm like, 'You did?' And they said it was because they knew me and understood the issue."
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