Jim Mone / AP
Cindy Amberger, left, and her partner, Lynne Hvidsten celebrate after the Minnesota House passed the gay marriage bill Thursday, May 9, 2013 in St. Paul, Minn. The two women have been together for 20 years. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
As activists jammed the state Capitol, lawmakers voted Thursday to make Minnesota the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage, just six months after voters made it clear they supported it.
Same-sex marriages would be recognized beginning Aug. 1 if the Senate follows suit next week. It's expected to approve the measure, which Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign.
"This is not about bigotry. It's about honoring difference," Democratic Rep. Karen Clark of Minneapolis, the bill's chief sponsor, said in a floor speech shortly before the 75-59 vote.
"We are protecting many children who are now — whether you approve or not — are a part of several thousand LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) families," Clark said.
Hundreds of supporters, many of them wearing orange, and opponents, many in pink, packed the Capitol building for the vote, NBC station KBJR of Duluth reported. They chanted loudly but remained peaceful.
The vote broke largely along party lines, with 71 of 73 Democrats backing it and 57 of 61 Republicans opposing. (See how each representative voted here.)
In November, Minnesota became the first state to defeat a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage after similar bans passed in about 30 other states over the last few years. House Republican leader Kurt Daudt of northern Minnesota said the voters' decision played a big role in Thursday's outcome.
"What we learned in November is that this issue deeply divides Minnesotans," said Daudt, who voted against the bill but acknowledged that it wasn't an easy call and urged his colleagues to "make your decision based on what's best for entire state of Minnesota."
Jim Mone / AP
Rep. Karen Clark, the bill's main sponsor, is given flowers after the vote Thursday, May 9, at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul.
Democratic Rep. Tim Faust, a Lutheran minister representing Kanabec and Pine counties, voted for the measure, saying he had changed his mind since the ballot initiative failed.
Faust said he had talked with hundreds of his constituents since November and now believed "we have opportunity to give people rights many of us have taken for granted."
But Republican Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, who represents parts of south-central Minnesota, said the vote put Minnesota on a "slippery slope."
"I believe activists groups will file lawsuits and strike provisions that will force this into our education system, both public and parochial," he said.
In a statement, Minnesotans United, a nonprofit group advocating for legalization, welcomed what it called "an outstanding day of celebration for thousands of Minnesotans who yearn for the day that they are treated fairly under the law."
"We are confident that the Minnesota Senate will approve this bill on Monday," it said. "It is time for all Minnesotans to have the freedom to marry they person they love."