The victory in Minnesota is especially noteworthy because, less than one year ago, an anti-gay constitutional amendment was before Minnesota voters, one that would have enshrined discrimination in their state constitution. Minnesotans narrowly rejected that discriminatory amendment, but few expected the tide to turn so quickly toward fairness. However, equality advocates and supporters, Minnesota legislators, and equality-supportive Governor Mark Dayton seized the moment and worked together to make it happen.
Today, May 14th, Governor Dayton will sign marriage equality into law on the front steps of the Capitol in St. Paul. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman issued a proclamation temporarily renaming the city’s Wabasha Street Bridge the “Wabasha Street Freedom to Marry Bridge.” Rainbow flags fly proudly from the bridge, and May 13-17 has been declared “Freedom to Marry” week in St. Paul.
Beginning August 1, same-sex couples will be able to marry in Minnesota.
… Illinois next?
With the equality momentum building, which state will be next? The most likely is Illinois. On Valentine’s Day, the Illinois Senate passed a marriage equality bill. Since then, equality advocates have been working with the Illinois House to secure the 60 votes necessary to pass a bill there. Backers say they are close, and Governor Pat Quinn reiterated his support for equality this past weekend, urging lawmakers to get a bill to his desk before their spring legislative session wraps up at the end of May.
Said Governor Quinn, “It's time to vote. Illinois passing marriage equality into law, I think, sends a great signal to the people of our state and the people of America. So it's important to Illinois (that) the House of Representatives get going.”
We hope that Illinois will become the 13th marriage equality state within the next few weeks.
What about DOMA and the inclusion of same-sex couples in immigration reform?
As exciting as the state equality achievements are, as long as the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is in place, the marriages of same-sex couples will continue to be excluded from federal recognition.
Among those most affected by this lack of federal recognition are binational same-sex couples. Because of DOMA, legally married gay and lesbian Americans cannot sponsor their foreign-born spouses for residency. As such, they are treated differently than married heterosexual couples. Until DOMA is found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress, binational same-sex couples will face the threat of having their families unfairly torn apart.
As the U.S. Senate considers comprehensive immigration reform, Vermont Senator and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy has proposed two amendments intended to help protect binational same-sex couples and their families.
Read Sen. Leahy’s proposed amendments here.
Find out more about the amendments and how immigration inequality has impacted one Vermont couple here.
In a video interview with Politico.com, Sen. Leahy says that discrimination is not the Vermont way: "In our state, we feel very strongly about this, that people should not be discriminated against, and I want to find a way, that couples who are married legally, when one is not an American citizen, they can have the same rights as all other couples married legally."
To share your thoughts with Sen. Leahy on the inclusion of same-sex couples in immigration reform, leave a message at his contact page.
VFM will keep you informed
Vermont Freedom to Marry will continue to keep you informed on state equality progress as well as on what is happening nationally, in the Supreme Court and in Congress. Federal marriage inequality is a Vermont issue.
With so much forward momentum, it’s an exciting time to stay engaged and work together toward equality for all American families.