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Rep. Andrea Kieffer of Woodbury discusses gay marriage during a Thursday, May 9, 2013, House debate. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

Woodbury's Kieffer among 4 Republicans to back House gay marriage passage

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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota is a Senate vote and a governor's signature away from becoming the 12th state to allow gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage supporters are optimistic because the House was regarded as the biggest hurdle. After the bill passed the House surprisingly easily 75-59, they were euphoric.

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The Senate is due to take up the bill Monday and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton says he will sign it.

Standing for hours in the Capitol rotunda, bill backers sang "give love a chance," their take on the protest ballad "Give Peace a Chance." When the bill passed, they sang a line from a 1960s tune: "Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married."

Inside the House chamber, instead of the chaotic atmosphere that usually accompanies House sessions, the gay marriage debate was quiet and polite. Hardly anyone moved from their seats.

"Same sex couples, we pay our taxes, we vote ... we own businesses in Minnesota," bill sponsor Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "Freedom is freedom for everyone."

Clark and Sen. Scott Dibble, another Minneapolis Democrat, are two openly gay members and sponsors of the bills that would overturn existing law banning gay marriage. A crowd that waited outside the House chamber during the debate greeted them and their partners as heroes after the vote.

Clark said she has worked to legalize same-sex marriage for 20 years.

As she pushed her "yes" button, a picture next to it showed her parents at a 1993 Rock County parade. They carried signs promoting equality for gays.

An estimated 1,000 to 1,200 people crowded into the Minnesota Capitol Thursday, a smaller crowd than many expected.

"It's incredible," Shelley Medernach of Eagan said after the bill passed. "I'm 56 years old and I didn't think I would live to see this day. It's amazing to be here."

Margaret Schow of Richfield said she made the trip to St. Paul to ensure lawmakers heard from same-sex marriage opponents.

"I wanted to show that there are a great number of Minnesotans who do not want them to pass this bill," Schow said. "There are many people who do not want this."

The bill that passed calls all marriages "civil marriage," an attempt to allay fears that clergy would have to officiate at gay marriages.

That distinction helped bring Woodbury's Andrea Kieffer -- one of four House Republicans to support the bill -- on board.

"I think this is a compromise," she said of the proposal to define marriages as civil unions.

"I think this would be a good solution so we can heal and move forward as a state," she added.

Two Democrats voted against the bill, Reps. Mary Sawatzky of Willmar and Patti Fritz of Faribault, who live in districts that strongly back the existing gay marriage ban. Along with Kieffer, Republican Reps. Pat Garofalo of Farmington, David FitzSimmons of Albertville and Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie bucked their party and voted for the measure.

Chris Kluwe, the just-released Minnesota Vikings punter who has worked for pro-marriage activists, said in a tweet that he lobbied Garofalo. "I talked with @PatGarofalo before the vote, and he made a tough choice. Glad he did."

The marriage bill resulted in a continuation of a campaign that started almost two years ago when lawmakers put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban gay marriage. That attempt failed last November, and the two campaigns immediately began ramping up for a legislative vote to remove an existing gay marriage ban in state law.

Here is how area state representatives voted on the same-sex marriage bill:

Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, no

Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, no

Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, yes

Steve Green, R-Fosston, no

David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, yes

Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, yes

Ben Lien, DFL-Moorhead, yes

Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, yes

John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, yes

Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, yes

Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, yes

Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, yes

Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, yes

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, yes

Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, no

Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, no

Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore, no

Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, no

John Ward, DFL-Baxter, yes

Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, yes

Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko, yes

Tim Faust, DFL-Hinckley, yes

Jay McNamar, DFL-Elbow Lake, yes

Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, no

Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, no

Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, no

Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, no

Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, yes

Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, no

Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, no

Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, no

Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, no

Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, no

Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, no

Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, no

Kathy Lohmer, R-Lake Elmo, no

Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury, yes

Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, yes

Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, no

Anna Wills, R-Apple Valley, no

Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, yes

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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