Rep. Karen Clark, the bill's sponsor, said her only goal was equal treatment under state law for same-sex couples. In a deeply personal speech, the Minneapolis Democrat talked of the support she got from her own family after coming out as gay decades ago.
"My family knew firsthand that same sex couples pay our taxes, we vote, we serve in the military, we take care of our kids and our elders and we run businesses in Minnesota," she said.
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.