Reporting Heather Brown
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The few seconds before the vote on the Freedom to Marry Bill was the only quiet moment heard all day at the Capitol. Soon after, the eruption of screams, hugs and tears were unleashed.
Andie Schwartz was overwhelmed with joy after the vote.
“I don’t even have words right now. I spent a long time wishing that I was the same as everyone else, and now I really am,” Schwartz said. I’m a real Minnesotan now.”
People began to gather hours before the debate even began. Many of the supporters packed the rotunda on every floor.
The State Patrol says the number of people at the Capitol for Monday’s vote was double that of attendees during the House vote on Thursday. Monday’s number was around 2,500 citizens.
Although the energy was similar to Thursday’s, the tone was different: less apprehension, and more celebration. Supporters knew they had the votes, and it was just a matter of time.
Most of the opponents stood outside on the steps of the Capitol. Don Lee brought with him a fake gravestone, reading “RIP Marriage.”
“You keep the institution, in a sense, you keep the big party,” Lee said. “But its meaning, its purpose is gone.”
Supporters of the bill, including Michelle Bebout, were there for what they believe is a historical moment for Minnesota.
“Someday people are going to say, ‘Where were you when it finally passed?’ I can say, ‘I was here,’” Bebout said.
The day lived up to what many had hoped for, including Paul O’Shea.
“We’ve been waiting for this for so many years, and it’s just the greatest day ever,” O’Shea said.
In a statement released shortly after the vote, the group Minnesotans for Marriage – who opposed the legislation – says the law “upends our most foundational institution of marriage.”
They added that the bill provides little protection for people of faith.