First year anniversary arrives for same-sex marriage ban lift

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, August 3, 2014

Seven same-sex couples obtained marriage licenses in Freeborn County during the last year, in what was the first year gay and lesbian couples have been able to legally marry in Minnesota.

Freeborn County Recorder Kelly Callahan said a majority of the couples were from out of state. With Freeborn County being the first county in Minnesota on Interstate 35, he said it is more convenient for some people to apply for a license here. They can also avoid possible congestion they may encounter if applying in a metropolitan area.

At least 3,885 same-sex couple obtained marriage licenses across the state, according to an analysis of state records. Hennepin County had by far the most, with one of every five marriages performed there in the last year involving a same-sex couple, according to clerk records.

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There is no statewide tracking of gay marriage and some counties don’t differentiate between same-sex and opposite-sex couples on marriage licenses. That numbers was based on clerk records, where they existed, and the Minnesota Official Marriage System database in other cases. Couples were counted only if their names strongly indicated they were a same-sex couple.

The Minnesota Senate voted on the marriage equality bill on May 13, 2013.

“When the last vote came in and it passed, I literally dropped to my knees and cried for 20 minutes. I felt … whole. I felt like a human being. For so long, I felt oppressed by our government. Finally, we would be treated equally,” recalled Misti Germundson, who married Danielle Petroske a week ago.

A few months later, Minnesota became the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Since then, six other states have done the same, and several have challenged gay-marriage bans.

“I think there’s been a sea of change now in the past couple of years, where we’re seeing the level of progress that we need to … secure the freedom of marriage for same-sex couples across the country,” said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, an LGBTQ advocate group.

But Minnesota’s political debate surrounding same-sex marriage isn’t over yet.

Two Republican incumbents who supported gay marriage in Minnesota have faced challenges within their party. State Reps. David FitzSimmons of Albertville and Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie weren’t endorsed at conventions. Some rural Democrats could also see the issue used against them this fall.

Some divorce attorneys said they have been busy officiating same-sex divorces since gay marriage was legalized in Minnesota.

“Minnesotans who were married in other places — Canada, Iowa, New York — but had been separated for years were finally able to get divorced here in Minnesota,” said Zach Smith of St. Louis’ Vox Law. “So, on Aug. 1, we had a same-sex divorce boom. It took the rest of the year for us to get the backlog cleared.”

The state had 12,224 same-sex couple households in 2011, according to the American Community Survey.