Rainbow-colored flags swayed alongside American flags at Minnesota’s state capitol as Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill granting same-sex couples the right to marry. With his signature, Dayton made Minnesota the first Midwestern state to allow same-sex couples to wed and the 12th state in the nation.
More than 6,000 people, including LGBT activists, lined the Capitol’s steps to witness the moment.
The Democratic governor was elated, exclaiming “What a day for Minnesota!” He also spoke to the importance of the 2012 elections when he said “And what a difference a year and an election can make in our state.”
The Minnesota Senate passed the bill 37-30 on Monday and it was immediately sent to Dayton’s desk.
Jake Loesch, communication director with Minnesotans United, a LGBT group, told Fox News the day was “overwhelming” and “joyful.” “Two years ago it would have been unimaginable to be here,” he said. “It was incredible, we had 7,000 people cheering as the bill as signed, it was probably the biggest crowd the Capitol has ever seen.”
Same-sex marriage faced an uphill battle in Minnesota, culminating the November defeat of a constitutional amendment that would’ve prohibited same-sex marriage in the state. Support for marriage equality reached a majority for the first time in 2013, setting the stage for the bill’s proposal and passage.
The bill’s chief sponsors were Rep. Karen Clark and Sen. Scott. Both congressional leaders were standing beside Dayton as he signed the bill.
“I thought it would happen someday, but I didn’t know I would be able to be here to be part of it,” Clark. It is vindicating for Clark specifically because now she can marry her partner of 24 years after being the longest-serving openly gay Congresswoman in the United States.
Clark, 67, revealed her sexual orientation in her mid-20s and has fought for marriage equality throughout her career. She marched in gay pride parades in the 90s and used her legislative power to propose laws protecting the LGBT community.
LGBT activists are hailing Minnesota for passing the legislation.
“The transformative nature of people talking about their love and their lives is clear, as we see in reaching this milestone in Minnesota, and in the fact that a clear and growing majority of Americans supports the freedom to marry,” Rea Carey, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told NBC News.
“The many years of door-knocking, phone calls and poignant conversations about why marriage matters have made a difference.”
Loesch doesn’t think the war for marriage equality is over. “There is still a lot of work to be done. Now we have to make sure that all the legislators that made this day possible will be reelected,” he said.
Some elected officials have already embraced the progress. St. Paul, Minn. mayor Chris Coleman renamed their Wabasha Bridge the “Freedom to Marry Bridge” for the week. The bridge crosses the Mississippi River and has been adorned with rainbow flags.
Clark and her partner Jacquelyn Zita plan to capitalize on the new law soon. A wedding date hasn’t been chosen, but Clark told Fox News she visualizes a wedding on their farm.
“It will be small, probably just friends and family,” Clark said. “We’re actually very private people.”