Minnesota's stunning turnaround on same-sex marriage [Updated]

Once on the brink of banning gay marriage, Minnesota now seems poised to legalize it

Hundreds of people turned out to support same-sex marriage in St. Paul, Minn., April 18.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

UPDATE: On Monday, May 13, the Minnesota Senate passed the state's marriage equality measure by a vote of 37-30. Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) has said he will sign it as early as Tuesday, making Minnesota the twelfth state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

Last November, Minnesota stood on the brink of passing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Now, just six months later, the state seems poised to do the exact opposite.

It would become the 12th state to legalize gay marriage, after Delaware, as expected, moved a marriage equality bill through the state legislature on Tuesday afternoon.

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On Thursday, the Minnesota House will vote on its own same-sex marriage bill. The Senate is expected to follow suit shortly thereafter, and Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) has already said he'll sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

"Thursday's vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives will be a historic victory for thousands of same-sex couples and families in our state," Richard Carlbom of Minnesotans United For All Families said in a statement Tuesday. "We are confident that the necessary votes to extend the freedom to marry for same-sex couples have been secured and that HF1054 will pass the House floor."

Supporters of marriage equality have reason to be very optimistic. The bill sailed through a final fiscal checkpoint in the House Monday night, passing on a voice vote after a mere ten minutes of debate, according to MinnPost.

Besides, House Speaker Paul Thissen (DFL) has said that he wouldn't bring the bill to a full vote unless he was sure it had enough votes to pass. In announcing Thursday's vote, he said he believed he now had those votes, even if no Republicans throw their weight behind the bill.

"We will pass this bill," the measure's sponsor, Rep. Karen Clark (DFL), said on Monday. "Yes, we will."

It's an incredible turnaround for a state that, just two years ago, was on track to ban same-sex marriage.

The 2010 midterm elections handed Republicans control of both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in nearly 40 years. Emboldened lawmakers moved quickly to place a proposed gay marriage ban on the ballot for voters to decide. Polls leading up to last November's vote offered mixed signals, though most conducted within the campaign's final months showed the ban eking out a small lead.

In the end, however, voters narrowly defeated that proposition, called Amendment 1, by a 52-47 percent vote. That made Minnesota the first state in the nation to reject a gay marriage ban at the ballot box.

At the same time, voters returned both chambers of the state legislature to Democratic control. Much as Republicans did after surging to power, Democratic lawmakers quickly began making their own push on same-sex marriage. But unlike their GOP counterparts, it looks like the Democrats will soon be proclaiming victory.

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Jon Terbush

Jon Terbush is an associate editor at TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.