In the early 2000s, the City Council passed a resolution welcoming a local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Pride festival. The mayor at the time took the unusual step of vetoing the measure, which enraged many in the community.
On Thursday, John Goldfine, vice chairman of ZMC Hotels in Duluth, will host a free midnight wedding party there when same-sex marriage becomes legal. Goldfine, who was ordained decades ago “during the hippie days,” is offering to officiate at same-sex weddings on Thursday.
He said he wants the celebration to be a place for people who can’t afford their own weddings or for people whose families do not approve. For that night, he said, “We are your family.”
The hotelier was not always so welcoming. Five years ago, his daughter told him she was a lesbian. Since then, he has become passionate on the topic of marriage equality and is eager to make amends for past failings.
“We are all coming together to celebrate a new era,” he said.
A mayor’s role
Duluth Mayor Don Ness said he gave little thought to marriage equality until about two years ago, when GOP legislative leaders pushed voters to take a statutory ban on same-sex marriage to the highest legal level: an amendment to the state Constitution.
“Like a lot of folks, support for marriage equality was an evolution,” said Ness, who will officiate at the marriage of Robinson and Lundstrom on Thursday. Once the debate over the amendment began, “it became clear that we had significant inequality in our state laws that needed to be corrected.”
Some cities and local governments are doing their best to look the other way.
In Bemidji, where voters showed strong support for banning same-sex marriage, Mayor Rita Albrecht said that she is unaware of any same-sex marriage plans for Thursday at any Bemidji public buildings and that she has no plans to officiate at any such ceremonies.
Ely Mayor Ross Petersen said the date’s significance “hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’m scheduled to go fishing that day.”
Crookston open for customers
In Polk County, where 31,000 residents are spread across nearly 2,000 acres along the North Dakota border, plans are taking shape for a handful of midnight marriages at Crookston, the county seat. According to U.S. census data, same-sex couples make up fewer than 0.1 percent of all households in the county.
Nevertheless, Polk County Recorder Michelle Cote has taken the unusual step of becoming an officiant, since the court administration no longer does it.
“I thought it was a service we should provide,” Cote said.
She would not share her views on same-sex marriage and said it is not something she and her colleagues discuss.
“I am very customer-service oriented and thought it was a nice idea,” she said.
Northwestern Minnesota remains deeply divided on the issue. Voters there showed some of the strongest and most reliable opposition to same-sex marriage over the last two years.