Mark Dayton signs gay marriage bill into law

Only a few opponents to the bill showed up to the signing.
Only a few opponents to the bill showed up to the signing.
Photo: Andy Mannix

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the gay marriage bill on the Capitol steps Tuesday evening, officially making Minnesota the 12th state to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Thousands gathered on the Capitol lawn on this sweltering evening to witness the historic moment, many wearing orange t-shirts -- the color for Minnesota United for All Families, the primary group lobbying for the bill -- and waving rainbow flags and balloons.

See also: Marriage Equality Senate Vote: People and Scenes Best Signs at the Senate Vote for Marriage Equality

"What a difference a year and an election make in our state," began Dayton. "Last year, there were concerns that marriage equality would be banned forever. Now, my signature will make it legal in two and a half months."

By signing the bill, same-sex couples will be allowed to apply for marriage licenses beginning Aug. 1. The state will also start to recognize gay marriages performed in other states on that date.

Rep. Karen Clark, who is openly gay, followed Dayton, also remarking upon the irony of this day coming only six months after Minnesota faced a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. "We work in strange ways," she said.

The ceremony marks the culmination of a debate that began more than 42 years ago, when Jack Baker and Mike McConnell walked into the Hennepin County courthouse and attempted to marry. At this time, there was no state law to ban gay marriage in Minnesota. No one had ever tried it before. When a clerk denied them a license, the Minneapolis couple sued. The case made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled against them. Read more about the history of the gay marriage debate in our January cover story, "When Will Gay Marriage Be Legal In Minnesota?"

Mark Dayton signs gay marriage bill into law

Sen. Scott Dibble, the primary author of the senate bill, took the podium Tuesday to an energetic ovation from the crowd. "You are so beautiful," he said. "I wish everyone could be here right now and see what I see."

Dibble said he was proud to have taken the seat of Allan Spear, Minnesota's first gay legislator who tirelessly pushed to amend the Human Rights Act to include gay and lesbian citizens. He thanked his colleagues and husband (they married in California four and a half years ago), along with Baker and McConnell.

"Today is a day we brought Minnesota together," said Dibble, noting there is still work to be done.

Before the crowd dispersed, Dayton took the podium again to offer one last piece of parting wisdom: "Please, leave slowly and carefully and don't trample anybody. Go celebrate. Love is the law."

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