No same-sex couples apply for licenses in Freeborn County

Published 11:20 am Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gay marriage now legal in Minnesota

Today marks the first day same-sex couples can marry under Minnesota law, but as of this morning in Freeborn County there haven’t been any applicants to do so.

The county began accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses on Monday, and there is a mandatory five business-day waiting period before the license can be used, said Freeborn County Deputy Recorder Sonya Paulson.

Had a couple applied on Monday for a marriage license, the soonest they could have been married was this coming Monday, Paulson said. Or, if they wanted to get married earlier, they would have to apply for a five-day waiver from a judge.

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Paulson said couples can purchase their marriage license in any county they choose in Minnesota — it doesn’t matter where they live or where they are getting married.

“We have a lot of people who come up on I-35 from different states who are maybe getting married at the megamall or Duluth,” she said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton designated today as “Freedom to Marry Day.”

With Rhode Island and Minnesota becoming the 12th and 13th states to legalize gay marriage, about 30 percent of the U.S. population will live in states with such laws, according to the gay rights group Freedom to Marry. Iowa became the third state to allow same-sex marriage after a state Supreme Court ruling in 2009.

Minnesota estimates about 5,000 gay couples will marry during the law’s first year, but the state didn’t analyze how many were already married somewhere else.

Local and national gay rights groups said it’s been a frequent practice, though not all states have welcomed non-residents. When Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize gay marriage, for example, only couples who were state residents could get a marriage license.

With August here, many faith communities feel a new urgency about whether they will perform same-sex weddings, particularly those that have been wrestling with how to address sexual orientation for decades.

Among those torn over the issue are Methodists, who have a unique history on the matter in Minnesota.

“The conflict has been going on for a long time,” said the Rev. Dr. Wesley Gabel, minister at Grace United Methodist Church in Fergus Falls. “The concept of this type of configuration in marriage has not been part of the churches history in any way.”

While there are groups seeking a change in the church’s stance, any attempt to marry would be a violation of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. That means ministers who go against the rules could be met with consequences.

Some faith communities, like ELCA Lutherans, allow individual congregations to make the decision. Other religions have policies set at the national or international level, so a change in Minnesota’s marriage law has little effect.

A host of other new laws will take effect Thursday. Here are a few of the more significant changes:

• Minnesotans will be able to prefund their funeral expenses and pay for them over a period of time.

• Paramedics will need an additional 12 hours of study in clinical topics to renew or earn their certification. The ambulance service medical director must approve the topics.

• Landlords who know a property’s contract for deed is being canceled or mortgage is entering foreclosure must notify the tenants. Those who don’t must face a new $500 civil penalty.

• Local governments can now advertise bids for public improvement projects in a recognized industry trade journal instead of the official newspaper if the project is more than $100,000.

• Underage drinkers looking out for their own health or a friend’s health can now avoid a minor consumption ticket if they call 911 for medical assistance, provide their name and cooperate with authorities on-scene.

• Fake 911 calls will be a misdemeanor on the first call, a gross misdemeanor on the second and felonies for every call thereafter.

• It will now be a gross misdemeanor to assault a public bus or light-rail operator, or to spit on or otherwise transfer bodily fluids onto the operator.

• Non-students will be able to hitch a ride on school buses to get to certain special events.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.