Same-sex marriage celebration brings hundreds to Minneapolis City Hall

Same-sex marriages became legal on Aug. 1.

Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak marries Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke, with their son between their arms, at Minneapolis City Hall Wednesday at midnight.

Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak marries Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke, with their son between their arms, at Minneapolis City Hall Wednesday at midnight.

by Cody Nelson

Hundreds of anxious onlookers filled Minneapolis City Hall well past its usual open hours early Thursday morning, waiting for a midnight wedding.

After making vows 12 years ago, Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke finally made their marriage official at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

The couple was one of many that celebrated the first day of legal same-sex marriage in Minnesota. As of Aug. 1, same-sex couples can legally marry and weddings held in other states will be recognized in Minnesota.

“It’s our constitutional right, our moral right, our American right to marry the person we love,” said Gov. Mark Dayton, who spoke to the crowd before the 42 scheduled ceremonies began.

Friends, family members, elected officials and members of the general public lined the hallways of City Hall to watch the state’s first same-sex couples get married by officiant Mayor R.T. Rybak.

University writing studies professor Laura Gurak married her partner in New York last August. The couple celebrated legal recognition of their marriage with friends at a Minnesotans United party at the Wilde Roast Café on Wednesday night.

Gurak said the “friendly” campaign to legalize same-sex marriage helped it go from being possibly banned to legal in just a few months.

“It’s been an incredible year,” she said. “Like running a marathon, once you’re up to speed, you kind of keep going.”

The University has been a “fantastic” work environment for gay employees, Gurak said. University employees with same-sex spouses will now be eligible for the same health benefits, also effective Aug. 1.

Before the ceremonies began at City Hall, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus performed, all wearing black T-shirts that read “Marry Me.”

John MacLean, 60, sang with the choir to a jubilant crowd.

“It’s finally nice to feel equality with other couples,” he said.

When MacLean came out to his family, he said his father didn’t talk to him for years. Although society’s perception of gay people is improving, MacLean said, there is still room to improve.

“I long for the day when people don’t bat an eye at gay couples,” he said.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, attended the ceremonies to watch two of her friends get married.

“What an amazing night,” she said. “We all expected [legal same-sex marriage] to come, but nobody expected it to come this quickly.”

Steff Yorek, a University staff member, legally married her wife this year in Washington. Having her marriage recognized is a big change, she said, and one that’s hard to process.

“I came out in 1991, and I said for years and years that this day was never going to come,” she said. “I’m just excited and relieved.”

Yorek and her wife, Jess Sundin, weren’t legally married until March. But Yorek said they consider their anniversary to be March 24, 2001 — the date of their commitment ceremony.

This month, she said she’ll be attending a few weddings for friends, many of whom are getting married on the anniversary of their commitment ceremony.

“That’s the funny thing, right? Yes,” she said, “the state is recognizing our marriage today, but we got married in 2001.”

Thursday’s new law change marks a rapid shift in policy for the state.

Last fall, Minnesota voters were the first in the nation to strike down a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. By the spring, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage was gaining momentum in the state Legislature. Dayton signed it into law in May.

Kahn represents neighborhoods around the University of Minnesota and was a supporter of the bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

Although some in the state are still opposed to same-sex marriage, Kahn said, “they’ll get over it,” adding that she hasn’t personally heard much opposition.

After the first two wedding ceremonies, Minneapolis native Jeremy Messersmith and others sang the Beatles’ classic song “All You Need is Love,” which kicked off the next 65 marriage ceremonies that continued into Tuesday morning.

For more on same-sex marriages in Minnesota, pick up Wednesday’s Minnesota Daily.


–Emma Nelson and Rebecca Harrington contributed to this report.