Civility, respect marks Minnesota vote on marriage equality - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Civility, respect in Minnesota vote

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Despite the passionate opinions formed in months of divided debate, the debate before the historic vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives was marked by a tone of civility and respect.

While it was certainly still partisan, lawmakers and Capitol watchers noticed a level of consideration that hadn't been seen in a while.

At the beginning of the debate, Rep. Tony Cornish stood up and turned toward the chief sponsor of the bill, Rep. Karen Clark, to tell her there is no one else he respects and admires more than her but that he could not vote for her bill. He added, "It doesn't change how I feel about you."

That moment seemed to set the tone for every word that followed, and though Clark stepped out of the Chambers into the welcoming arms of supporters and history, the Minnesota House still represents a state divided.

"For me, this is a matter of my faith and respect, not disrespect," explained Rep. Jim Abler (R-Andover).

What made the debate markedly different than others was that political rancor was entirely replaced with respect and reflection.

"If I made a mistake two years ago in the approach that I took, it's that I didn't consider both sides of the issue," said House Minority Leader Kurt Doubt.

Even lawmakers noticed the extraordinary air in the chamber.

"Very respectful debate today -- the quietest the chamber has been, the quietest I think I've ever heard the gallery," said Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis). "It was interesting. As the debate went on, the crowd outside quieted and listened respectfully."

In the end, reflection led to passage -- thanks in part to four Republicans who changed their position after an amendment granting stronger marriage protections for churches was passed.

"Of any state that has taken up this issue, this bill has the strongest protections for religious freedoms, for conscience and churches and synagogues," said Rep. David FitzSimmons (R-Albertville), who authored the amendment.

Yet, the vote did not come without a sense of loss for some.

"I don't know how I would do when I got here," Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) admitted. "I was fine until I walked in the building and saw all the people here, and [I] know that it's a divisive issue that divides our state and it's not what we needed to be doing at this time."

The embraces in the Capitol building tells another narrative, a half-written story with the Senate poised to write the final chapter on Monday.

"I think this sets up tremendous momentum in a really, really positive climate and atmosphere for the vote on Monday," Sen. Scott Dibble, the bill's sponsor, said.

Dibble told FOX 9 News he believes there are enough votes to pass the measure in his chamber as well. If it does, Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign it.

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