Gay Marriage in Minnesota: Another Milestone Is Reached

Oh, Minnesota! With the the state senate passing marriage equality late yesterday, and Gov. Mark Dayton expected to sign the bill into law today, let's sit back for a minute and assess the history you've made.

Almost one-quarter of the states will now have marriage equality, with Minnesota becoming state number 12, following on Rhode Island and Delaware just within the past two weeks.The claims by anti-equality leaders and their followers that same-sex marriage states are an aberration and do not represent the true America -- or, as Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage recently said, are "not indicative of the rest of the country"-- is an example of mass denial bordering on sheer lunacy.

Minnesota is the first state in the nation's heartland, the Midwest, to pass marriage equality legislatively. Political strategists thought it was going to be bigger and bluer Illinois. But no, a marriage equality bill has been stalled in the the Illinois legislature for months, with advocates still hoping to get more votes, while Minnesota boldly surged into the bright future.

Minnesota is the first marriage equality state in which just a few short months ago analysts were still predicting gay marriage would be banned in the state's constitution in a ballot measure. And that dramatic turnaround underscores how rapidly public opinion is changing everywhere. Just two years ago Minnesota's then-Republican-led legislature voted to put a gay marriage ban on the ballot in 2012. Of the four states voting on gay marriage in the fall of 2012, Minnesota was viewed by political analysts and many gay activists as the long shot for a win by gays. But, in addition to beating back that measure, just six months later the Land of 10,000 Lakes has shown us what equality is all about.

Minnesota's marriage equality win also represents a stinging blow to the anti-gay evangelical right. This is the state that brought us Michele Bachmann, a GOP member of Congress who was running for president just a year ago, and an evangelical Christian who made her political career by pushing boilerplate religious bigotry about gays, including comparing them to Satan. With a husband, Marcus, who runs "pray away the gay" clinics in Minnesota, she's been a leader in the religious right across the country, even often taking credit for organizing anti-gay activists in Minnesota to get the marriage amendment on the ballot last fall. It was the hope of anti-gay forces nationwide that Michele Bachmann would keep the tide of gay marriage back. But the floodgates have opened.

For sure, the much harder work for the cause of marriage equality lies ahead. Barring a Supreme Court ruling in June in the Prop 8 case that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, we'll have to get bans on gay marriage overturned in over 30 states before moving on to actually passing marriage equality in those states. Still, every milestone should be celebrated, and Minnesota's win on equality is surely one of them.