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Continued: Why a straight Minnesota couple will be wed in Canada

  • Article by: NICHOLAS HENGEN and EMILY TEPLIN
  • Last update: May 23, 2008 - 7:27 AM

Why are we getting married in Thunder Bay, Ontario? That's a question we've heard a lot lately.

We live and work in Minneapolis. We own a home here. Unlike many of our dearest friends and family members, we are not gay and could have a legal marriage in Minnesota.

We are going to Thunder Bay this weekend because we want to tie the knot in a place where marriage is available to all.

Our decision to marry did not come easily. We knew we wanted to formalize our commitment to each other, but did we really want to join this particular institution? We like that our government bestows special privileges and rights to people like us in long-term, care-giving relationships, but we also agree with scholars such as Martha Fineman that those privileges should be granted to many other kinds of family relationships -- adult children caring for and living with parents, as one example.

Our biggest concern was the blatantly discriminatory nature of marriage laws in Minnesota. We would never eat in a restaurant that refused to serve people of a particular race or religion; how could we participate in a civic institution that excludes our gay friends and family members?

After much research we decided that the rights and protections afforded to married couples were ones we did not want to live without -- the right, for example, to take time off work without penalty to care for each other or to make end-of-life decisions on each other's behalf. And after more than five years of sharing our lives, after deciding to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives, "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" seemed hopelessly inappropriate words to describe our relationship.

By marrying in Canada, we protest our state's discriminatory laws. Those laws should recognize same-sex unions, if not other kinds of familial relationships.

We're not alone. As a city clerk in Thunder Bay told us as we made plans for our trip, Minnesotans seeking marriage equality are carving an increasingly well-worn path between the Twin Cities and her office. She has married dozens of American gay people, couples whose government refuses to recognize their commitment to sharing their lives.

It doesn't have to be this way. Last week, California became the second American state to embrace a more inclusive vision of marriage. It is our great hope that soon the rights now accorded to families in California and Massachusetts will extend to all Minnesotans. By adopting the recently introduced Marriage and Family Protection Act, the Legislature can step in where the federal government has failed to stand for equality and offer the right to marry to all Minnesotans. Such action can't come fast enough for thousands of Minnesota families -- gay and straight alike.

Nicholas Hengen is a graduate student in American literature at the University of Minnesota. Emily Teplin is an attorney practicing in Minneapolis.

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