ST. PAUL, Minn.
Just six months after Minnesota voters turned back an effort to ban gay weddings, lawmakers are poised to make the state the first in the Midwest to pass a law allowing them.
The startling shift comes amid a rapid evolution of public opinion nationally in the debate over marriage. But with Minnesota and possibly Illinois set to broaden the definition to include same-sex couples, coastal states may soon have some company in enacting changes.
In November, voters unexpectedly defeated a measure that would have banned same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution, even after more than two-dozen states passed similar bans. That prompted gay marriage supporters to quickly go on offense.
Those efforts culminate today with a vote in the state House that Democratic leaders assured would pass. With the state Senate expected to follow suit, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton could sign a bill as early as next week.
In the past week, Rhode Island and Delaware approved gay marriage. But so far, only legislatures in coastal or New England states have voted affirmatively for gay marriage. Except for Iowa, which allows gay marriage due to a 2009 judicial ruling, same-sex couples can’t get married in flyover country.
Minnesota might go first, but Illinois could be close behind. The state Senate there voted in February to allow same-sex marriage, and supporters think they’re close to securing the votes needed to get it through the House and on to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who says he’ll sign it.