Gay couples pull 1,640 marriage licenses
- Article by: PATRICK CONDON and BRIAN BAKST
- Associated Press
- September 3, 2013 - 12:03 AM
Same-sex couples have received nearly one in three marriage licenses issued in Minnesota since they were allowed to wed.
A statewide survey by the Associated Press accounts for the first month of the new gay marriage law. Since Minnesota became the 12th U.S. state to legalize gay marriage, at least 1,640 same-sex couples applied to be married. Counties aren’t required to report such data to the state, so the Associated Press built a database through calls to all 87 counties.
Millions of dollars were spent trying to block gay marriage in Minnesota, and many millions more trying to achieve it. The rush by same-sex couples to take advantage of the new law likely reflects a pent-up demand by couples together for many years.
“This is the product of people who were living in the legal wilderness for so long, suddenly no longer being told their relationships are substandard,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, a sponsor of the bill signed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May. “I’ve been going to so many weddings lately, it’s like I’m two years out of college again.”
AP obtained information from 83 of 87 counties. Among the findings:
• Demand was heaviest in the metro area, with three of every four licenses for gay marriages issued in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, which make up about 32 percent of Minnesota’s population.
• At least 1,433 licenses were issued to gay couples in the 12 counties where most voters opposed a 2012 attempt to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota’s constitution. One county in that category — St. Louis — wouldn’t provide a license breakdown.
• In 29 responding counties, no gay couples sought licenses. All are counties where voters favored the constitutional ban. They account for about 7 percent of the state’s population.
• There was at least one application for a gay marriage in each of 40 counties where the constitutional ban had majority support. Clay County, where Moorhead is the population center, had the most with 31.
• Statewide, almost 3,600 licenses were issued to opposite-sex couples from Aug. 1 through the final days of the month, when the AP sought the information.
The AP’s data aren’t a precise reflection of the number of couples who wed beginning at midnight Aug. 1. Marriage licenses are valid for six months after receipt, and some people who seek one could later decide not to marry. Marriage certificates are issued after nuptials, but those documents don’t list the gender of each party to the marriage.
State law requires marriage license applications to include a space for people to mark their gender. Some counties opened the application window for same-sex couples in June, but none of the licenses could take full force until August.
Officials in Pine, Rock and Todd counties refused requests for the information. St. Louis County also withheld data, but said in response to an open-records request that it would consider turning over details within two weeks.
State officials estimated this spring that 5,000 gay and lesbian couples would get married in the law’s first year; the Census Bureau estimated in 2010 that there were 10,000 gay couples living in Minnesota.
Although Twin Cities-area counties led the way, same-sex marriage applications popped up in every corner of the state — from the seven in Cook County at the northeastern tip of the Arrowhead region to the two in Lyon County in the southwest corner.
Minnesota for Marriage, the political group that pushed for the failed constitutional amendment and fought the gay marriage bill at the Capitol, has repeatedly highlighted the urban-rural split on the issue. The group vowed again last week to try to defeat legislators who supported gay marriage against the wishes of most in their district. “We did not forget,” the group said in an e-mail to supporters.
One of the swing votes for the law came from Rep. Jay McNamar, a DFLer from Elbow Lake in western Minnesota. In the seven counties included in his district, only four gay couples applied for marriage licenses.
“Come election time it will get brought up, I know that. But I don’t regret what I did,” McNamar said. He said he heard from more gay-marriage supporters than opponents from back home when the bill was moving through the legislative process.
© 2013 Star Tribune