The Minnesota House of Representatives took a momentous vote Saturday night, as it approved a measure allowing Minnesotans to vote on a gay marriage ban next November. The historic vote was preceded by more than five hours of debate and emotional speeches from DFL and Republican legislators. We have compiled some of the best speeches from Saturday. Above is the much talked about speech from Representative John Kriesel, one of the few Republicans who decided to buck the party line and vote against the constitutional amendment.
In her first speech of the night, Representative Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) recommended that the bill be referred back to Judiciary Policy and Finance. In her speech, Representative Murphy said that the stakes of the debate on the amendment were just too high. She said that the constitutional amendment, though still on the Floor, was dividing Minnesotans. She pointed out that in her many years at the Capitol she has never seen Minnesotans crying like they have, anti-gay prayers heard in session, or such a high police presence protecting legislators and citizens.
A controversial prayer on the eve of a House vote on an anti-gay marriage bill may not have changed a lot of minds, but it did open a lot of mouths. Representative Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth) gave a surprise speech Saturday night in opposition to the gay marriage amendment. 48 years ago when Representative Huntley was married, many people frowned upon him for marrying a woman in another religion. And they certainly did not accept the mixed-race that produced President Obama, Representative Huntley said. However, times have changed. And in the past 48 years, mixed-religious or mixed-race weddings have become things that are no longer frowned upon or, even, illegal. He says that the gay marriage amendment would take Minnesota back 48 years and that is not something that he wants.
Representative John Ward (DFL) gave an impassioned speech last night opposing the gay marriage amendment. He said that Representative Tim Kelly’s (GOP-Red Wing) speech, which bucked the GOP party line, inspired him to speak when he had been planning to sit. ; Representative Ward said that he opposed the constitutional amendment, because he was concerned about putting discrimination in the state constitution. Representative Ward, who has a physical disability, says that he hated his appearance growing up and that he did not see his disability as a blessing, but rather as a curse which made him the victim of discrimination and bullying growing up.
Representative Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton) spoke Saturday night in opposition to the gay marriage amendment. In her speech, she implored her fellow members to vote no on the bill, but she also noted that she was prepared for a “yes” vote. In her speech, she said that she was ready to join hands with the the GLBT community and their allies to fight for their right to love and marry each other.
Representative Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) ended his speech, Saturday night, opposing the gay marriage amendment by quoting the Declaration of Independence. ; In his speech, Rep. Morrow shared that he recently learned that his great-grandfather was a black slave and that his grandfather, also black, was married to his grandmother in an inter-racial marriage illegal in some states. He says that experience and knowledge are impactful on his thoughts on gay marriage in Minnesota.
Representative Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights) says the debate around the gay marriage amendment is actually about “leading from the heart.” She says that the debate is not about letting the people discuss and vote, because those things happen in Minnesota’s cultural context and at the polls during elections.