When Rep. Karen Clark walked out into the rotunda of the Minnesota Capitol on Thursday one might have thought she was a rock star.

The 67-year-old soft-spoken Clark had just shepherded a gay marriage bill through the Minnesota House. The bill, thought to be a long-shot in the chamber by many, cleared the House with 7 votes to spare, including four from the GOP column.

A large highly-charged crowd of supporters in the rotunda began chanting “thank you” as Clark approached a podium to speak.

For Clark, Thursday's victory was hard-fought and personal.

Two years earlier, she pleaded with colleagues not to approve a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union. She begged House lawmakers not to force her and her longtime partner Jacqueline to marry in another state.

“Until this last election, I thought my partner and I might be able to be one of the early couples to enjoy the rights of marriage by a law getting passed and signed in Minnesota. But that possibility has changed, at least for now,” Clark said on the House floor.

“And since my dad has become so ill, I have for the first time thought of taking a trip to Iowa, where gay marriage is legal. So that he could still be part of a celebration for me and my partner. Maybe we will do it on his 95th birthday in June,” Clark said, referring to Jacqueline's father.

“But I beg you colleagues, please don't make me go off to Iowa. I was raised in Minnesota. I'm a child of Minnesota,” she added.

Lawmakers approved the amendment but voters, in a first, rejected it at the ballot box.

Clark on Thursday was introduced to the crowd under the Capitol dome by Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for Marriage, the coalition of groups lobbying for passage of the bill.

“Seventy-five votes!” an overjoyed Clark told the elated crowd. “I think it's clear we're one big step closer to victory.”

Clark went on to thank Jacqueline for “being the love of my life and being here today.”

The Senate is expected to debate the bill on Monday.