The Minnesota Senate convenes at noon Central Time (1 P.M. Eastern, 10 A.M. Pacific) today to take up HF 1054, the bill the Minnesota House passed last Thursday, a bill that would enact civil marriage equality statewide. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has promised to sign it (probably tomorrow!), making Minnesota the first state that's more than 90 miles from an ocean to enact marriage equality legislatively.
Join us as we watch the Senate debate the bill and—if conventional wisdom is to be believed—pass it easily.
We'll also try to keep tabs on press reports from outside the Senate chamber, where the State Capitol is likely to be packed with activists both pro-equality and anti-.
[BTW, this is a re-post of the original liveblog, after that one slid down the Recent Diaries list with the session about to begin.]
Update 62 perhaps the last, 4:34 PM: Here's the final vote tally. It appears that Branden Petersen was the only Republican to cross party lines. The AP reports that DFL Senators Stumpf, Sparks, and Koenen crossed in the other direction. That's not the contrast I would have liked, but never mind: 37-30 is a solid majority anyway.
Thanks for following along, all of you who did. Hope to see you at the victory party on the Capitol steps with Governor Dayton tomorrow!
Update 62, 4:20 PM:
37-30; it passes; and once the presiding officer gives permission, the crowd goes wild!
Update 61, 4:18 PM:
Update 60, 4:12 PM: As Bakk talks about a family friend named "Ray" who was around every time the Bakk family needed him, in the background, you can hear the distant crowd in the Rotunda singing some revised Lennon: "All we are saying/Is give love a chance!"
Update 59: Dibble finishes at 4:10.
Majority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) says he's going to take "a couple of minutes" to talk. Okay....
Update 58, 4:06 PM: "Nothing will change ... except that ... we will be removing the barriers" that have been placed in the lives of so many GLBT families.
He's finishing up. Here we go!
Update 57, 4:05 PM: Dibble is "proud to be a Minnesotan today." So am I!
Lots of tears as he talks about his marriage-in-California. The "connection and understanding."
Update 56, 4:00 PM: Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis), the Senate author of the bill, is up; this would, then be it.
Reads a poem to begin. It's Langston Hughes, "Let America Be America Again," intentionally minus the dark stanzas.
Update 55, 3:59 PM: Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) immediately apologizes for not going ahead of the Minority Leader (so much for almost being finished... well, we're still getting close).
"It's all about people." Both sides are good people. Should we "move off the traditional definition of marriage"? That sort of implies a "no" vote, but he doesn't explicitly declare it. He states that "we're gonna have same-sex marriage," though.
However they're voting, the Republicans clearly are resigned to defeat here. Says some lukewarm nice things about "Bob and Joe down the street." Cute. Also "Marge and Jo"? Guess so.
Goodness: he's still undecided!
Update 54, 3:52 PM: Hann concedes that he's going to lose the vote, but whines about his side being called "bigots." Grrr. He's angry.
Appeals to God. Appeals to natural law. Whatever! Can we get on with this?
Update 53, 3:49 PM: Petersen cites his libertarianism as a reason to get out of the way of someone else's happiness. When he finally announces (not that it was obscure) that he's going to vote "yes," there's a distant but loud cheer from the crowds outside the hall.
Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), the Minority Leader in the Senate, starts his remarks by smearing that "We still don't have a budget" (the Governor and DFL legislative leaders introduced one yesterday). Now he's complaining that there hasn't been sufficient discussion of this bill.
The good news with Hann taking the mike is that this is a signal that we're getting close to the end of the debate! By normal procedure, Hann will be the last Republican to speak; after this, we'll get the DFL chamber leaders, then Dibble, then the vote. Woo-hoo!
Update 52, 3:44 PM: Petersen references the Equal Protection Clause, and the notion of "protected classes" within it. Notes that the oldest "protected class" is members of religions, and no one worries about whether they choose membership in their class. (Are Christians "born that way"?) Good stuff.
Update 51, 3:39 PM: After Cohen is Sen. Branden Petersen (R-Andover), the lone party-line-crosser we've seen thus far today. States his "yes" vote is a matter of conscience, a "look myself in the mirror" issue.
Update 50, 3:36 PM: Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul) speaks in support of the bill, connecting it to prior civil rights movements.
Update 49, 3:32 PM: Sen. Charles Wiger (DFL-Maplewood) supports the bill, while admitting that he voted for the state DOMA bill in 1997. Interesting.
Update 48, 3:30 PM: Sen. Alice Johnson (DFL-Spring Lake Park) rises to support the bill. Invokes laws against interracial marriage; Sen. Johnson herself is in an interracial marriage (as am I!).
Next is Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa), ringleader of the Senate antis. Lots of rhetoric about God. But "it looks like this is gonna pass."
Update 47, 3:22 PM: Latz finishes: "This is indeed the civil rights issue of our generation." I strongly agree.
Sen. Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge), against the bill, joins the chorus of Repubs whining that they were told that a "No" vote on last fall's amendment vote would lead to "nothing changing." And yet "here we are, and things are going to change." Sooo sad.
Update 46, 3:17 PM: Sen. Latz's speech, as befits the speech of the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, is heavy with legal concepts—most notably separation of church and state. He gets applause from this litigator right here.
Tom Scheck from Minnesota Public Radio writes: "The Senate debate has now gone longer than the debate in the MN House. The Senate has half the members (and offered fewer amendments)."
Update 45, 3:09 PM: Sen Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) supports the bill, and he starts by attacking Sen. Hall's absurd rhetoric (without naming Hall), pointing out that it's the same kind of inflammatory B.S. that was used in civil-rights debates in the 1960s.
Update 44, 3:05 PM: Sen. Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport) has the tough job of following Sen. Torres Ray, supporting the bill in the name of children's "inner voice[s]."
Then Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL-Columbia Heights), in support of the bill.
Update 43, 3:03 PM: Sen. Torres Ray finishes her speech in Spanish, after explaining how important intersectionality is in this matter. Her voice (in both languages) is trembling—it's a seriously moving moment.
Update 42, 3:00 PM: Sen. Patricia Torres Ray "stand[s] in strong support of this bill today."
At this point it's worth noting that, from what I've seen, there's only one Senator—Republican Sen. Branden Peterson—who has stated that he or she is crossing party lines on this bill. Presumably there will be a handful of others, but in a chamber with a strong DFL majority, the antis would need to peel off a lot of Democratic votes that we haven't seen to this point.
It seems awfully likely that there just aren't enough Democratic "no" votes to overcome the margin of DFL control in the Senate—which is why the conventional wisdom has long been that the bill will pass safely today.
Update 41, 2:54 PM: Carlson talks about how his attitudes toward GLBTs have changed, and how he's proud to vote in favor of the bill.
Next is Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), who says she's going to vote against the bill because "all cultures" have "separated the union of one man and one woman above all other relationships."
"Before marriage was written in our statutes or in our Bible, it was written in our nature."
Then Sen. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina). In support.
Update 40, 2:50 PM: Hall finishes up with fabulous Torquemada-style preaching: "Most people know that this is not right." "I'm here to affirm true beliefs about your relationship with your Creator." "This document will bring civil disobedience"! And "confuse children"—"More than any single thing has done since the Civil War." "Devastating repercussions this vote will have on our communities." "You must choose who you will serve. God help us."
Ugly, ugly, sneeringly religiously privileged stuff. (And he mispronounces "propose" as "purpose," twice. What a doof.)
At 2:49, Majority Leader Bakk takes a Point of Order to get people (members? people in the gallery?) to stop taking pictures. D'oh!
Next up is Sen. Jim Carlson (D-Eagan), speaking in support of the bill.
Update 39, 2:45 PM: Hall declares that "it's about what's good for children. ... The question is: are homosexual marriages good for children?"
Update 38, 2:40 PM: Westrom is on a roll, with the Parade of Horribles for those who "believe in traditional marriage."
"Members: I think this is a wrong step in history. A step that we should not be going down. We should affirm what the Legislature did in 1997, keep this statute in place, and keep 'mother' and 'father' in marriage."
"The question that can't be answered is if marriage is about marrying who you love, where does that stop?" It's a slippery slope!
Next is Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), who speaks of those who are "grieving" because of the possibility of the bill passing. He's opposed. Runs down a long list of hoary fundy cliches about religion and marriage. "I disagree with the lifestyle." Ech.
Update 37, 2:33 PM: Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center) speaks, "strongly support"ing the bill.
Then it's Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), author of a defeated amendment, referencing that before 1997 state statute didn't define marriage as being between a man and a woman "because they didn't have to!" Then courts got involved (curses!). "This Legislature took a vote and passed legislation to write into law what had never been in question before in this state, because it didn't need to be." Big majority supported it.
"Here we are, just 16 years later, taking that statute out. Getting rid of this long-standing tradition that our state has recognized since creation." ("Creation"?)
Update 36, 2:25 PM: Reinert finishes up, referencing Spielberg's Lincoln and also the fact that he's one of the rare unmarried members of the Senate. Hey, good speech.
Next is Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), in support. (I had to look up Kerrick; it's about halfway up the Wisconsin border from the Twin Cities toward Duluth.)
Update 35, 2:23 Central: Jensen discusses the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum decision finding that denying marriage equality violated equal protection. Speaks reverently of the separation of church and state. Cool—all that (Varnum is a very well-done decision) warms this litigator's heart.
Next up is Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth), who says he's never disclosed his position on the bill until now. He's got a "strong personal opinion" on it, though: "as a civics teacher," he wants to go back to the Declaration of Independence, and the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" at the heart of it. Cites Locke on "pursuit of public happiness."
So he says his mother asked him how he's going to vote. Choking up, he says she and his sister will be proud of him. "50 years ago, this would have been about the color of [my sister's] skin." Connects that to sexual orientation.
Okay, he's going to vote for the bill. But take down the name "Roger Reinert"; I think people will want to watch this one again.
Update 34, 2:15 Central: Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna) speaks in support of the bill. Mentions that she campaigned on marriage equality.
Update 33, 2:13 Central: Now it's Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake), right-winger and former Secretary of State. She whines that her constituents were told that a "No" vote on last year's constitutional amendment meant that "nothing would change," and yet "here we are today, with a massive... change."
Update 32, 2:11 Central: Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) speaks in favor of "equality, civil rights, fairness," and the bill.
Update 31, 2:07 Central: Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) opposes the bill, but he says there's "no question in [his] mind that it's going to pass." Gee....
Update 30, 2:03 Central: Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) speaks in favor.
Update 29, 1:58 Central: That's it for amendments. Now they're debating the main bill.
First up to speak is Sen. John Marty, legendary Minnesota liberal and former (1994) DFL gubernatorial nominee. In support of the bill, obviously.
Next is Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), against the bill.
Update 28, 1:52 Central: Westrom defends his "A51" amendment, as does Sen. Nienow, though Nienow concedes that Dibble is right that it's unnecessary.
The amendment fails 36-31.
Update 27, 1:46 Central: Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) announces his "A51" amendment that would retain "mother," "father," "husband," and "wife" in the context of opposite-sex marriages.
Sen. Dibble speaks in opposition; argues that the amendment is completely unnecessary, and supported by an inaccurate version of the facts.
Update 26, 1:42 Central: Senate votes on the "A10" amendment. It goes down 41-26. Good.
Update 25, 1:38 Central: Gazelka and now Sen. Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge) worry about individual service providers (florists, etc.) who can't bring themselves to provide services to gay couples. "There's nothing in the legislation for the wedding photographer."
Update 24, 1:28 Central: Nope, Sen. Ron Latz (DFL) is going to speak first. Latz, attorney and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agrees that the amendment "guts the Human Rights Act." The amendment would allow individuals to deny service to (for example) a black person who has decided to marry someone who's not black.
Now will they vote on the amendment? (I think so....)
Update 23, 1:26 Central: Sen. Barb Goodwin (DFL) concurs with the criticisms of the amendment. Vote on the amendment upcoming.
Update 22, 1:21 Central: Sen. Dibble reads a separate section of the amendment and chimes in with Torres Ray.
Update 21, 1:19 Central: Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL) blasts the amendment as "harsh"; she reads off the text of the amendment and attacks it.
Update 20, 1:14 Central: Dibble finishes by blasting the amendment's "inseverability" clause, which would (for the first time anywhere in Minnesota statutes) state that if any part of this bill is unconstitutional, the entire thing collapses.
Limmer is now back up and defending the amendment. Whatever; let's vote this thing down and get on with it.
Update 19, 1:09 Central: Sen. Dibble rises again to blast the "A10" amendment for its breadth—basically repealing all anti-discrimination protections when it comes to religious entities. "Where does it stop? Why would we take this step?"
Update 18, 1:06 Central: Sen. Branden Peterson (a Republican sponsor of the marriage equality bill!) speaks against the amendment, disputing the notion that the rights of religious institutions and people are at risk without the amendment.
Update 17, 1:00 Central: Gazelka announces an amendment ("A10") to the bill that he proposes titled "First Amendment Rights." Intended to protect entities "in connection with" religious bodies from discrimination complaints. Expressed concern is a Knights of Columbus hall, or Northwestern (Bible) College being asked to provide facilities for a same-sex wedding or connected event.
The next portion of the amendment would prevent individuals with "sincerely held religious beliefs" from being required to provide services to same-sex couples.
The amendment would immunize such entities and people from civil or criminal liability, or from receiving tax exemptions or licenses.
Update 16, 12:54 Central: Okay, to heck with the Senate feed, it's still not working for me. Moved over to the Uptake, where Sen. Gazelka (R-Nisswa) is reading a letter from faculty at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic institution in the Twin Cities.
Update 15, 12:42 Central: As Sen. Latz (DFL) was responding to Limmer's latest complaint, my connection to the Senate video feed died. Well, crap. That might about do it for this liveblog until and unless I can get the thing resuscitated.
Update 14, 12:38 Central: Limmer, back up, complains that the bill removes the religious basis of Minnesota's definition of "marriage." Also argues that the bill doesn't sufficiently protect religious organizations from litigation or from "being denied public grants or money."
Update 13, 12:34 Central: At Limmer's question, Dibble explains why the House inserted "civil" before "marriage" in state law. Limmer complains that it seems to him the bill is nullifying "every reference to faith" with regard to marriage.
Update 12, 12:29 Central: Sen. Warren Limmer (R) speaks in opposition. Warns against acting in the absence of "clear consensus."
Update 11, 12:23 Central: Dibble finishes explaining the various provisions in the bill; a co-author, Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL), rises to speak in support of it.
Update 10, 12:20 Central: Sen. Dibble's motion passes (the House's language is adopted), and he's now delivering his speech on the bill.
Update 9, 12:17 Central: Game on! Sen. Scott Dibble, the Senate author of the bill, has the floor and is now moving that the previous Senate language be stricken in favor of the amended language that the House adopted last week.
Update 8, 12:13 Central: The Senate, led by Majority Leader Tom Bakk (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, a.k.a. "DFL"), is breezing through preliminary matters; no discussion of the marriage bill yet.
Update 7, 12:06 Central: Rev. Dennis Morreim, Senate Chaplain, is giving the session's invocation.
Update 6: At 12:01 Central, the Senate is being called to order. Here we go....