Minnesota took a step closer yesterday to becoming the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The measure passed the state House, 75 to 59. The action moves to the state Senate on Monday. If it passes there, the bill will become law with the signature of Gov. Mark Dayton (D), a marriage-equality supporter. What led the Land of 10,000 Lakes to the precipice of making history was one of three things I forgot to mention that happened in the fabulous year since President Obama came out in support of allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Election Night 2012 saw voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state do something no other voters had: They approved marriage equality at the ballot box. But folks in Minnesota did something that also hadn’t been done before. For the first time, voters rejected a proposal to ban same-sex marriage through a state constitutional amendment. Just six months earlier, voters in North Carolina approved a similar ballot measure. As Minnesota Public Radio reported yesterday, the groundwork for what happened yesterday was laid on Nov. 6.
Thursday’s House vote was a stunning political shift that seemed unimaginable last fall when Republicans controlled the state House and Senate following big wins in the 2010 election. However, the GOP push to take Minnesota’s current statutory ban on gay marriage and cement it into the state constitution energized liberal groups.
The result was a massive get-out-the-vote campaign in November that not only defeated the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage but helped deliver [Democratic-Farmer-Labor] majorities back to both houses. That laid the path to Thursday’s vote to repeal the current state legislative ban on same-sex marriage, which was passed in 1997.
The two other things that happened in the past year were more symbolic. But symbols matter.
During his second inaugural address, Obama stunned the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community by weaving its civil rights struggle into the larger American story when he listed the Stonewall riots among this country’s great social movements. That he also reiterated his support for marriage equality into his inaugural address was a presidential first and will be marked as a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall …
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until …. our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
And then on March 18, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced her support for marriage equality.
Marriage, after all, is a fundamental building block of our society, a great joy and yes, a great responsibility. A few years ago, Bill and I celebrated as our own daughter married the love of her life, and I wish every parent the same joy. To deny that opportunity to any of our daughters and sons solely on the basis of who they are and who they love is to deny them the chance to live up to their own God-given potential.
Given her record at the State Department, Clinton’s declaration came as no real surprise. But considering the possibility that the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination aspirant might run again in 2016, Clinton’s statement marked another major political shift. All of the presumed major candidates for the Democratic nomination — Vice President Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Clinton — favor marriage equality. In short, to be a viable presidential aspirant in the Democratic Party, being against same-sex marriage is a nonstarter.
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