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
“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.