Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton previously had said he would sign into law a bill making same-sex marriage legal in Minnesota. But on Wednesday night, during his annual “State of the State” address, he went a step further, forcefully arguing that all people should have the right to marry a partner of their choosing, and urging the Minnesota Legislature to enact a same-sex marriage law.
With his personal endorsement of the effort to obtain state acceptance of same-sex marriage, Dayton also put his political clout behind plans to push such a measure in this year’s legislative session.
“I want Minnesota to be a state which affirms that freedom for one means freedom for everyone, and where no one is told it is illegal to marry the person you love,” Dayton told Minnesota lawmakers.
Minnesota voters defeated a Republican-sponsored constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in last November’s election. Since then, efforts have begun to craft legislation permitting same-sex marriage in the hopes of getting such a bill approved in this year’s legislative session. Dayton now has made clear his support for that effort.
“Last year, Minnesotans began a conversation about why marriage matters, and we found our common belief that it is about love, commitment, and responsibility,” said Dayton, a Democrat.
Reaction to Dayton’s statement
Supporters of same-sex marriage cheered Dayton’s statement. State Sen. Scott Dibble, an openly gay Democrat, has been advocating for repealing Minnesota’s law against “gay marriage.”
“I agree with the governor’s assessment on this important issue at this historic event,” Dibble said in a press release. “Minnesotans spoke clearly last year about this issue and told us the values that unite us are more important than those that divide us — that marriage is about love, commitment and responsibility.
“The state budget and our economy are the focus at the start of this session, as they should be,” he continued. “(But) there is also room at the right time to have this conversation, which, consistent with everything else the legislature is working on, is really all about helping families do well.”
Republicans who supported the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage said they will stick to focusing on the economy and jobs. Senate Minority Leader David Hann said his caucus will leave the marriage issue to the Democrats who won majorities in the House and Senate, indicating that Republicans still may hope to use the gay-marriage debate as a wedge issue in elections.
“I think that it certainly is an issue that has divided the people of the state of Minnesota,” said Hann. “There’s lots of very passionate opinions on this, on both sides, and the majority certainly has the opportunity to bring whatever issue they want to the floor. But we think that the budget (and) how we are going to deal with the economy are the important issues, the central issues.”
Full text of Governor Mark Dayton’s State of the State Address