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Continued: Weddings start a new day for gay marriage in Minnesota

“This is a sad day in our state for the majority of Minnesotans who still believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman as God designed,” said Autumn Leva, spokeswoman for Minnesota for Marriage, which led opposition to same-sex marriage. “We are grieving because we understand that Minnesota’s families, children, and religious liberty rights will all pay the price for the decision made by a group of legislators to force a gender-neutral society on our state.”

Joe Stiles, 65, of Owatonna, said he feels like Minnesota and the nation are reaching a crucial tipping point — away from the values and beliefs he holds dear. “I am more sad and disappointed, rather than angry,” he said. “It may take a couple of decades before society wises up and realizes what we’ve done by watering down and diminishing the importance of marriage.”

“Marry Us”

Shortly before midnight in Minneapolis, more than 500 people poured into City Hall and were greeted by the scent of white roses, lilies, stocks and orchids, garlands strung across balconies and around pillars, and multicolored lighting that dramatically staged the staircase where the weddings would take place.

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus lined the stairwell to sing before the first ceremony, all wearing black T-shirts with the words, “Marry Us.”

The first male couple to wed at Minneapolis City Hall, Al Giraud and Jeff Isaacson, each had a lady slipper, the state flower, tucked into their boutonnieres.

“It was awesome. It was magical,” said Al Giraud, who married Isaacson, shortly after ten Broeke and Miles were wed.

Witnessing the scene, Rybak said that “the fact that it’s happening now is really almost mind-boggling and exciting for me.”

The mayor’s matrimonial marathon began the day the Legislature legalized gay marriage back in May. As the crowds cheered, a jubilant Rybak had shouted out to the crowds in the Capitol rotunda: “If this thing passes, come on down to City Hall and we’ll marry you!”

He didn’t realize how many people would take him up on that offer.

“We could have done hundreds of weddings tonight,” he said late Wednesday evening. “We cut it off at 42.”

After the initial, high-profile weddings came quieter ceremonies: Two middle-aged men in gray sport coats clasped hands, one of them shaking slightly, as Rybak officiated in a tone too soft for anyone but them to hear. When it was over, Lars Peterssen and Robert Zimmerman kissed, embraced and turned away from the crowd to quickly wipe a tear before they lined up for their wedding portrait.

Ten Broeke said she’s hopeful that the day marks a turning point not just for couples like her and Miles but for children. Six weeks ago, she said, their son innocently told classmates that his two moms were getting married only to have one retort, “Two women can’t get married!” Now, she said, “I don’t think anyone is going to say that to him anymore. Today changes so much for the next generation.”

At the Hotel Minneapolis, a steady stream of couples and guests rolled in and out, dancing, eating, drinking, gleefully throwing their hands in the air as “It’s Raining Men” played.

From hopeless to happy

Only eight months after they despaired of ever getting to the altar, Reid Bordson and Paul Nolle, partners for 13 years and fathers of a 21-month-old daughter, said “I do” and were pronounced legally married at a midnight ceremony in St. Paul.

It was the Capitol city’s first same-sex marriage, and the fragrance of the summer floral display in the Como Conservatory’s sunken garden mingled with high emotions and a historic first.

“To know we got married, the first couple in the Capitol city, where all the political activism happened, it’s insane,” Bordson said after the event. “We’re part of history.”

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