In Minnesota, We Shall Overcome

Last night the Minnesota legislature capped a three-week end-of-session effort to ban same-sex marriage.  The state senate approved the amendment on May 11.  It then went to the state house of representatives. In the end, the vote was 70-62 in favor, two more than the 68 needed for passage onto the ballot.  Sixty-eight Republicans (the exact number needed) and two Democrats voted for it.  Four Republicans voted against it, putting their legislative careers on the line, as did 58 Democrats, some of whom represent socially conservative districts. 

The debate lasted more than five hours. You can watch it here, beginning at the 22:30 mark.  (In the background you can hear the chants and songs of hundreds of amendment opponents outside the chamber.)  But debate really isn’t the word for it. As happened in the committee hearings prior to the floor votes, no amendment supporters other than the sponsor spoke up in favor of it.  Even he offered no substantive defense of it, saying only that the people should be allowed to decide the issue.  They sat there, said nothing, and voted “yes.”  There was political calculation in that silence, to be sure, but having talked with many legislators I also know there was some shame in it. 

On the other side, there was a speech by first-term Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), a war hero, that should be remembered when the history of the same-sex marriage movement is finally written. It’s the “Hell No” speech, and can be found here.

During the debate, amendment opponents sang, chanted, and watched the proceedings on monitors.  They sang songs like Amazing Grace, This Land Is Your Land, the National Anthem, and most memorably for me, We Shall Overcome.  Below was the first rendition of many last night.  Forgive the shaky video, my hands were trembling as I tried to record the moment:

Eighteen months from now, on November 6, 2012, Minnesota will become the first state to reject one of these amendments.