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Locals react with joy, disappointment as Dayton signs gay marriage bill

Published 9:25am Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed a bill making gay marriage legal in Minnesota, as many Mower County residents and thousands of onlookers cheered. Back in Austin, many residents rejoiced to hear the news, including several members of Austin’s Human Rights Commission who were in the state Senate gallery Thursday to see the historic floor vote.

“It was so amazing to be in those crowds with those people, and to see the joy and the excitement,” said Kirsten Lindbloom, gay/straight alliance coordinator for Riverland Community College. “Lots of tears, lots of hard gulps, lots of shouting.”

Lindbloom will celebrate her five-year anniversary with her partner this summer, and she is excited to have their partnership legally recognized as a marriage.

“What a day for Minnesota!” Dayton, a Democrat, declared moments before putting his signature on a bill.

Rainbow and American flags flapped in a sweltering breeze during the ceremony, held on the Capitol’s south steps. The crowd, estimated by the State Patrol at 6,000, spilled down the steps and across the lawn toward downtown St. Paul.

Human Rights Commission co-chairman Jake Vela also attended the event, and was blown away by the amount of support for same-sex marriage.

“It was so, so powerful,” he said. “It’s personally validating. It just says that we’re moving forward as a state, and hopefully the country.”

Yet for every Mower County resident pleased with the law, there are those who disagree with it. About 57 percent of Mower County residents approved of an amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage last November, although the measure failed. That majority swayed Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, to become one of three Democrats, all from rural districts, to vote against the bill Thursday.

Morgan Core, Mower GOP chair, said she approved of Sparks’ decision, especially in light of November’s vote on a marriage amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage if passed. The divisive issue let legislators measure the pulse of their districts, which they rarely have a chance to do.

“I will have to give credit where credit is due, and thank Sen. Sparks for voting in line with this district,” Core said. “I strongly question why both Reps. Jeanne Poppe [DFL-Austin] and Shannon Savick [DFL-Wells] chose to vote against the will of their constituents.”

Those who opposed the bill, Core said, were concerned it was about more than two people who wanted to marry having equal rights. The bill will hurt individual liberties like the freedom of religion, she said.

Core added she was worried about the country having a tendency to give equal rights to minority groups by taking away the rights of the majority.

“There are enough rights in the United States of America to go around,” she said. “We do not have to play Robin Hood and take them from some to give to others.”

Despite her opposition to it, Core said it was time to leave the issue be.

“The bill is passed and we need to respect the decision and move forward,” she said.

Pastor Mike Sager of Faith Evangelical Free Church in Austin said he hopes Minnesotans will not be divided over the issue going forward.

“I pray that those of us who believe that God’s ideal for marriage is one man and one woman will love our neighbors in a way that demonstrates the gospel, regardless of their point of view,” Sager said. “And I pray that those who think this is a great decision for our state won’t think of others as hateful or phobic because of their different convictions.”

He added for people to be at odds with one another over the issue would contradict Jesus’ teaching for people to love one another as they would themselves.

In time, both Vela and Lindbloom said, people will look at the same-sex marriage debate as a civil rights victory allowing people to share rights with others, rather than having rights taken away.

“When we get to a year from now, and we look back on this, the impact from the greater community will be minimal, and at the same time the impact on the gay community will be enormous,” Lindbloom said.

—McClatchy-Tribune contributed to this report.

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