Thursday marks the first day Minnesota’s same-sex couples can legally wed.
In Minneapolis, two men who fell in love 38 years ago will finally get married this week in front of their rabbi at City Hall. In Duluth, two men with three children will wed in an early morning ceremony on the shore of Lake Superior. Two North Dakota women who fled their home state last year and resettled in Minnesota are busy planning their nuptials this fall.
Minnesota is on the verge of a remarkable new chapter in its history Thursday, as it becomes only the 13th state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.
In courthouses and city halls around the state, wedding preparations are underway as the first gays and lesbians prepare for their new and uncharted lives as legally married couples.
“There are so many layers of pain we were having to push through and all of the sudden here we are,” said Phil Oxman, a Minneapolis psychologist who will marry his partner of nearly 40 years at Minneapolis City Hall sometime after midnight on Thursday. “Suddenly, we are all fully functioning members of this state.”
“It’s just a wonderful celebration, and we want to be part of it,” said his partner, Harvey Zuckman.
Just a few years ago, most gays and lesbians did not dare to imagine that marriage might soon be a reality in Minnesota. Last year, many were fighting just to stop having same-sex weddings banned in the state Constitution.
Now many are scrambling to find new ways to make ancient wedding ceremony traditions their own.
But as they prepare for their happy day, gay and lesbian couples face an unsettling reality: Their marriages — and the myriad legal rights and protections that come with them — will be meaningless in 37 other states.
Even at home, acceptance falls well short of universal. Minnesotans remain deeply and often bitterly divided over an issue that, for many, crosses religious and moral boundaries.
Tia Johnson, 30, a mother of three from Clara City, represents those views. “We simply cannot deny that men and women were born to be biologically distinct, and their roles are so very precious as moms and dads,” Johnson said. “I’m also concerned about marriage continuing to be redefined in Minnesota’s future. … I’m concerned about expressing these viewpoints without being verbally thrashed or legally silenced.”
‘A seat at the banquet’
Scars from the long marriage equality battle on the ballot and at the State Capitol, along with the uncertain marital landscape nationally, have gay and lesbian couples heading down the aisle amid a complex swirl of emotions.
Duluthians Tim Robinson and his partner, Gary Lundstrom, will wed at 7 a.m. Thursday, in the Duluth Rose Garden overlooking Lake Superior.
“All these years, we have been used to two words: tolerance and acceptance,” said Lundstrom, 55, an artist. “We are told to be grateful. But that’s like only accepting crumbs off the table. Now we have a seat at the banquet.”
Robinson, 50, a social worker, said they have never been crusaders. Both grew up in deeply religious Christian families, with some members who still won’t embrace their relationship.
“We just tried to live our lives. We haven’t forced things on our family that might make them uncomfortable,” Robinson said.“But the only way people are going to see same-sex couples is by seeing same-sex couples. It’s not radical. It’s just something everybody else has taken for granted.”
Midnight party in Duluth
Duluth has had its own struggles with the marriage issue.