ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota state Senate voted Monday to allow gay couples to marry, clearing the way for Minnesota to become the 12th state to permit same-sex marriage and the first in the Midwest to do so without a court ruling.
The vote was 37-30. The state House approved the measure Thursday, and Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, said through his office that he would sign it into law Tuesday.
"These families deserve the same rights and recognitions that we do," said state Sen. John Marty, a Democrat, as hundreds of people on both sides of the issue gathered in the Capitol, singing, waving signs and shouting loud enough to be heard inside the Senate chamber as the debate went on before the vote.
"It's finally happening," Marty said.
Sen. Carla Nelson, a Republican, opposed the measure, saying it "denies the right of a different opinion."
"We must respect religious freedom at the same time that we advance rights," she said.
In a way, the vote to allow same-sex marriage shows how rapidly sentiment on the issue has shifted in the state. For much of 2012, Minnesota debated an amendment that would have enshrined the state's existing ban on gay marriage in the state constitution, but voters in November rejected the amendment. They also sent majorities of Democrats to both chambers of the state Legislature, setting off an intense new push to legalize same-sex marriage.
The vote in Minnesota comes as part of a wave of victories for those advocating same-sex marriage. In this month alone, lawmakers in Delaware and Rhode Island made similar moves, and voters last fall approved measures in Maryland, Maine and Washington at the ballot box.
While efforts to allow same-sex marriage have flourished in states on the East Coast, the picture in the middle of the country has been different. Since 2009, Iowa has been the only Midwestern state that permits gay men and lesbians to wed, although that was decided by a state Supreme Court ruling. In Illinois, which allows civil unions, state House members are considering a same-sex marriage bill that has already been approved in the state Senate.
Thirty states, meanwhile, have adopted constitutional provisions limiting marriage to a man and a woman.