Minnesota became the first state to strike down a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
In one of the most emotionally charged races in the state, only 47.4 percent of voters voted in favor of the measure, with 87 percent of precincts reporting as of press time.
Under state law, gay marriage is still illegal. If the amendment had passed, it would have made it much harder to legalize it.
Minnesotans United for All Families, the main opponent of the amendment, held an election night event Tuesday at the St. Paul River Centre. The event featured spirited appearances from Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar also celebrated an early win over Republican challenger Kurt Bills on Tuesday.
The party erupted in tears, cheers and hugs when the amendment’s failure was announced.
“This is truly a historic night,” said Richard Carlbom of MN United.
“Minnesota has become the first state in the nation to beat back a freedom-limiting amendment like this. Minnesota is now the first state in the country to face this question and say ‘no.’”
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who also won re-election, was a strong opponent of the amendment.
“People say, ‘Well, marriage between one man and one woman is traditional.’ Let me tell you something else traditional: liberty and justice for all,” Ellison said.
MN United for All Families, was highly visible around University of Minnesota throughout the election, including canvassing Tuesday.
Volunteers phone banked and door-knocked in campus dorms and other student housing.
Economics senior Lindsay Gorelick worked with the MN United campaign and braved the chilly weather to stand in line outside at her polling place for a chance to vote down the amendment.
“Mostly why I am here is to vote no,” she said. “That’s 99 percent of the reason I’m OK with waiting outside in the cold.”
Physics sophomore Gautam Satishchandran said that the amendment was the only thing on the ballot that mattered to him.
“I’m not voting for anything on the ballot but the marriage amendment,” he said prior to voting. “It’s the only thing I feel strongly about, so it makes sense to me.”
Polls taken throughout the election season showed both sides of the amendment were consistently close.
According to a late October Star Tribune poll, 48 percent of respondents were in favor of the amendment and 47 were against.
Supporters of the amendment, like Minnesota for Marriage, believed it would protect the “traditional” family.
“Protecting the interests of children is the primary reason that government regulates and licenses marriage in the first instance,” the organization’s website states.
Much of the amendment’s support came from churches and religious groups, giving the issue moral implications.
“It’s not that we’re hating against homosexuals. We don’t agree with what they’re doing, but we’re not hating them as a person. It’s kind of the whole idea of hate the sin, not the sinner,” said Emalynn Dahl, a freshman at Association Free Lutheran Bible School.
Many amendment proponents made the issue a religious one. According to the Star Tribune poll, 70 percent of supporters of the amendment said their religious leader influenced their decision.
Also on Tuesday, Maryland and Maine both voted to approve same-sex marriage.