‘Freedom to Marry Day’ calls for support of GLBT rights

Drew Geraets

Approximately 50 gay and lesbian couples registered as domestic partners Thursday for “Freedom to Marry Day” in Minneapolis.

The event, held at City Hall, featured speeches by Mayor R.T. Rybak, two openly gay City Council members and a newly joined gay couple who advocated more support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Minneapolis residents Jude Foster and Carla Nathan said they decided to register as domestic partners after Nathan’s blood sugar skyrocketed last fall and she was taken to a hospital.

When Nathan called Foster, who was on a business trip at the time, they soon realized the dilemma – Foster had no say over Nathan’s care because their relationship was not legally recognized.

“That really became our wake-up call for both of us,” Foster said.

Nathan said she appreciated the city’s policy.

“I’m glad that Minneapolis is at the forefront in America for GLBT,” Nathan said. “Legal recognition is extremely important.”

The City Council approved an ordinance in 1991 providing legal recognition for “non-married but committed adult partners.” It also allows Minneapolis employers to voluntarily provide equal benefits to domestic partners.

About 900 couples have paid the $20 fee and registered.

Kate Nelson, a political science and sociology senior, worked at the event and said she thought it went well.

“It’s really cool to see the families here,” said Nelson, the former co-chairwoman for the Queer Student Cultural Center, who interns for OutFront Minnesota, an organization representing the GLBT community.

City Council member Gary Schiff, Ward 9, said the day highlighted the need for more legislation.

“These are basic human rights that should be enjoyed by everyone,” he said. “Give us basic human rights and recognize our families today.”

Rybak said the issue is not only a matter of civil rights, but also a question of keeping businesses in the community.

“It’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do,” Rybak said. “It’s smart to attract and retain employees.”

The day sent a statement to the rest of the country, said Ann DeGroot, OutFront Minnesota’s deputy director.

“Who says San Francisco’s the only great gay city?” she asked.