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Gay marriage clears Minnesota House, heads to Senate

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Hundreds of supporters and opponents gathered outside the House chamber up to and during the debate, chanting and waving signs. They sang "We Shall Overcome" and the John Lennon song "Give Peace a Chance" — substituting the word "love" for "peace."

Four of the House's 61 Republicans voted for the bill, while two of its 73 Democrats voted no. None of the four Republicans committed support beforehand; one, Rep. Jenifer Loon, said she made up her mind during the three-hour House debate, in which lawmakers listened with rapt attention while their colleagues spoke.

"There comes a time when you just have to set politics aside and decide in your gut what is the right thing to do," said Loon, whose suburban district southwest of Minneapolis voted strongly against last fall'sgay marriage ban. The other Republicans to vote for gay marriage also hail from suburban or exurban districts: Pat Garofalo of Farmington, David FitzSimmons of Albertville and Andrea Kieffer of Woodbury.

The two Democrats who voted no, Patti Fritz of Faribault and Mary Sawatzky of Willmar, represent largely rural districts where the gay marriage ban was backed by a majority of voters. But most of the Democrats from rural, more socially conservative areas ended up voting for the bill.

Opponents argued it would alter a centuries-old conception of marriage, and leave those people opposed for religious reasons tarred as bigots.

"We're not. We're not," said Rep. Kelby Woodard, a Republican from Belle Plaine. "These are people with deeply held beliefs, including myself."

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