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Two Harborites joined other advocates of marriage equality in celebrating after the Minnesota House passed a bill to make marriage legal for gay and lesbian couples. A similar bill was passed by the Senate Monday evening. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday. Left to right: Ben Younger, Kimberly Rose, Al Kosters, Judy Jambois, Tom Bothwell of Two harbors, Charles Eccles, Sue Hilliard of Two harbors, Stefan Heikel, Gary Anderson, Rachel Beadley, Kelsi Manky. Photo submitted by Susan...

Lake Countians react to marriage equality law

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Lake Countians react to marriage equality law
Two Harbors Minnesota 109 Waterfront Dr. 55616

Last fall, Fran Kaliher of Two Harbors was one of thousands of Minnesotans advocating defeat of a proposed state Constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as being between one woman and one man.

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That effort resulted in victory for her side. This week, it went far further when Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill on Tuesday making Minnesota the 12th U.S. state to allow same sex marriage.

"For me it's about all the kids growing up, thinking they might be gay, and suddenly having the playing field leveled for the first time," Kaliher told the News-Chronicle.

"It's a huge statement by our government that they too are full-fledged people; they are OK," she continued. "Kids with gay parents can look at their parents in a different way now, whether they choose to marry or not... no more second class citizens. To me it's not about marriage at all, it's about telling gay kids especially that they are equal players in society, and any kids with gay parents that their parents are as good as other parents."

Authored by Sen. Scott Dibble and co-sponsored by Sens. Terri Bonoff, Tony Lourey, John Marty and Branden Petersen, the bill passed by a vote of 37 to 30 Monday.

Last week in a 75-59 vote, the Minnesota House passed its version, written by Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis). It received broad support among Democrats, with only two DFLers voting against the bill. Of 61 House Republicans, four voted in favor. Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) attempted to amend the bill and substitute references to "marriage" with "civil unions", but the effort met with disapproval and was voted down 22-111.

"Love is the law," Dayton declared at his Tuesday signing before throngs in St. Paul.

The legislative effort culminated months of campaigning by individuals and groups on both sides of the issue, with some Lake County residents in the thick of it.

With same sex marriages being allowed as of Aug. 1, many have predicted a boon in weddings, even to the degree that they could mean an economic boost.

For clergy members, however, it means reconciling how the law squares with their denominations' religious practices.

"The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church specifically states that 'ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.' The Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) defines marriage as 'a civil contract between a woman and a man.' As such, under denominational rules, our congregation may not celebrate marriages other than between a man and a woman," said Lawrence Lee of United Church of Two Harbors.

"That said," he added, "as a congregation United Church affirms the inherent worth of all people, gay or straight, and welcome all people to be followers of Jesus Christ. Our denominations are struggling with this issue. Just last year a motion that would have amended the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to allow same sex marriages failed by only 30 votes (338-308). Similar discussions are going on in the United Methodist Church."

Susan Hillyard and Tom Bothwell, both of Two Harbors were on hand in St. Paul last Thursday to witness the historic vote in the House. Both volunteered with Minnesotans United for All Families, an organization formed to defeat the amendment and advocate for marriage equality in the state.

"It was incredible to be there on Thursday. (There was) so much energy and love and much, much more," said Hillyard, "it has been a fabulous experience working on this campaign... so many wonderful people, so many new friends."

Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) said that he was happy to walk up the Capitol's front steps en route to the debate in the Senate on Monday.

"Today is one of those days, those rare days where we can make a real and recognizable difference in people's lives..." he said. "At the core of the debate today is love."

Polls show Minnesota divided over the issue, but the trend appears to be in favor of same-sex marriage.

A UCLA Williams Institute study shows that about half of Minnesota's 10,000 gay couples probably will wed within three years.

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