ST. PAUL, Minn. (BP) -- Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize gay marriage Tuesday (May 14), continuing a trend that has seen the number of states that have redefined marriage double within the past year.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, signed the bill Tuesday, one day after it passed the state Senate, 37-30. It had passed the state House, 75-59. Delaware and Rhode Island also approved gay marriage this year after voters in Washington state, Maine and Maryland OK'd gay marriage laws last year.
Passage of the Minnesota bill was particularly discouraging for traditional groups because a constitutional marriage amendment -- which would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman -- was defeated by voters last November, 52-48. If it had passed, gay marriage could not have been legalized. Minnesota would have joined 30 states that have similar constitutional amendments.
The bill will take effect Aug. 1.
"I want to thank the people of Minnesota who voted last year to defeat a very destructive constitutional amendment, and also to elect courageous legislators, who would support this monumental social advance," Dayton said before signing the bill.
The bill's passage became possible when Democrats took the legislature back from Republicans last November. Republicans had placed the marriage amendment on the ballot.
Minnesota for Marriage, which supported last year's constitutional amendment, called it the bill's signing a "sad day" for the state.
"This bill not only upends our most foundational institution of marriage, redefining it as genderless and declaring mothers and fathers as 'neutral' in Minnesota -- it also fails to protect the most basic religious liberty rights of those who believe based on their faith that marriage can only be the union of one man and one woman.
The group added, "The only religious freedom protections provided in this bill will protect clergy and religious institutions -- declaring that people of faith can only practice their beliefs about marriage inside the four walls of their church. The same-sex 'marriage' bill effectively dictates that people of faith must violate their deeply held religious beliefs about marriage in violation of their God, or stop practicing their profession or business."
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, also expressed concern over the new law.
"The people of Minnesota did not vote for gay marriage in 2012," Brown said. "They voted to maintain traditional marriage by maintaining the status quo. Our opponents bought a victory by claiming that marriage was not under threat of redefinition, but in fact they always intended to redefine it at the soonest possible moment. Legislators who voted to redefine marriage were foolish to do so. They cast a terrible vote that damages society, tells children they don't deserve a mother and a father, and brands supporters of traditional marriage as bigots. We predict that this vote will be career ending for many legislators in Minnesota."
Illinois likely is the next political battleground for gay marriage. A bill has passed the state Senate but has yet to receive a vote in the House.
Six states have legalized gay marriage in the past year, all of them doing so following President Obama's public support for marriage redefinition. Obama's change in position eventually led to dozens of Democrats in the House and Senate supporting gay marriage.
"It, quite simply, changed everything," Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House senior adviser, told ABCNews.com. "So much is dramatically different just a year later. It really shows the power of the presidency and the power of a presidential endorsement, especially in the very personal and moving way that this president did it."
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told ABC News that Obama's support for gay marriage "absolutely" has had an effect, but Perkins also noted that 30 states still have constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
"You look at the scoreboard, it's 30-10," Perkins said. "We're clearly far from a tipping point as a nation.... And the fallout from this will become more and more evident. It's not just about the marriage altar. It's about fundamentally altering our society.
"I'm not saying all the cultural trends are positive. I'm just saying it's too early to call the game," Perkins said.
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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