Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Changing Landscape of Marriage Equality: UPDATE!!!

Today is the day in Minnesota. At 12:00 p.m. local time (1:00 p.m. eastern), the Minnesota House will vote on a bill to legalize marriage quality in the state. This vote is the biggest hurdle that the bill has, but hopes are high. The House is split 73-61 in favour of Democrats, so even if a few Democrats defect on an otherwise party-line vote, the bill will have a great chance of passage. Support is strong in the state Senate, and if the house passes the bill, the Senate will have a vote on it come Monday. Governor Mark Dayton has repeatedly expressed his support for equality.

Not to get too ahead of ourselves, but let us look at the significance of what marriage equality in Minnesota would mean. There is the obvious fact that there will be yet another state where marriage equality will be the law of the land. There is also the fact that this would be a huge turnaround for the state. Currently, Minnesota has a statute barring marriages of same-sex couples. Just last year, the state was on the verge of adding to that a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. The constitutional measure failed in the November elections of 2012. We have gone from that to the state being poised to endorse marriage equality in a matter of half a year. If anything is indicative of the national shift on this particular issue, Minnesota is it.

There is also a geographic importance. As it stands, marriage is primarily coastal. Of the eleven states (plus D.C.) where it has been legalized, they are all on/near the coast except one. The heartland of America is pretty much devoid of marriage equality, Iowa being the exception to that rule. Minnesota can change that as could another midwestern state on the verge of equality, Illinois (Illinois is still working on getting sufficient support in the state House). These states could give equality a very strong foothold in the Upper Midwest and change the landscape of the fight for equality in a very important way. Opponents will not be able to say that gay marriage is primarily supported by coastal elites. Middle America will have undeniably shown its support for equal rights and yet another talking point of the anti-gay sect will be thrown down.

There was an article on Buzzfeed earlier this year that listed twelve states which could legalize marriage equality between 2013 and 2014. Two of those states - Delaware and Rhode Island - have already done so. Hopefully Minnesota will follow their lead. We will have a clearer picture in a few hours. You can watch the floor debate and the vote live HERE.

UPDATE: The bill passed the house by a vote of 75 to 59.

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