By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — This summer, Lisa Coons hopes to be on both sides of a same-sex marriage — officiating and participating.
The Mankatoan plans to wed her partner of 25 years and, as an ordained non-denominational minister, is excited to be able to perform marriages for same-sex couples starting Aug. 1.
“I think we’re going to be very busy,” she said.
The state Senate’s gay marriage vote saw no surprises from Mankato-area senators; Democrats voted for the bill and Republicans voted against it.
Sen. Vicki Jensen, a Democrat who lives in Owatonna and also represents Waseca, was the only south-central Minnesota legislator to speak on the floor. Her district supported last fall’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage 57 percent to 43 percent.
She said the issue was clarified for her by the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court case Varnum v. Brien, in which that court decreed that Iowa’s law restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the state’s constitution.
“At the heart is the doctrine of equal protection, and that’s my opinion as well,” Jensen said.
In other words, the government has to treat same- and opposite-sex marriages the same because there’s no legal reason to treat them differently.
Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, said she took a long time to listen to dissenting views but could “not find a foundation upon which to vote against this bill. I just couldn’t find one.”
In a letter to constituents on the topic, she addressed the view that marriage is about raising children, and that same-sex couples create less successful families.
Sheran wrote that, drawing on her own experiences and review of studies on the topic, successful families are created by secure income, parental self-esteem and maturity, responding to children’s needs and community support — not by the gender of parents.
Sen. Kevin Dahle, DFL-Northfield, said the messages he received in favor of gay marriage were “pretty overwhelming.”
His district turned aside last fall’s amendment but only by a margin of about 500 votes among more than 40,000 votes cast.
Dahle said his vote was about conscience, not electoral politics.
“When I came into office in ’08, I might have given pause in how I might vote, but this time I really felt the time is right,” he said.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, voted against the gay marriage bill.
For her part, Coons was emotional as a reporter called her.
“Really, I was relieved and happy and ecstatic, then a friend sent me a message that said, ‘Marry your sweet partner.’ The reality, I think, is a bit overwhelming.”