On first day same-sex couples were allowed to apply, a rush for marriage licenses in St. Louis CountyIt was a record-breaking day at the St. Louis County Courthouse on Friday as 34 couples filed for marriage licenses. Most of them were for same-sex marriages on the first day the county allowed filings to meet the new law allowing the unions Aug. 1.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
It was a record-breaking day at the St. Louis County Courthouse on Friday as 34 couples filed for marriage licenses. Most of them were for same-sex marriages on the first day the county allowed filings to meet the new law allowing the unions Aug. 1.
The county didn’t break down the filings by type of marriage, but the previous record for filings in one day was 17, half of what was seen Friday. The previous two Fridays this month had nine and six filings.
Mark Monacelli, director of the county’s public records office, said filings came at a steady pace throughout the morning. A line began to form over the lunch hour and more staff had to be pulled in to handle the volume.
The first same-sex couple to file were Heidi Engstad, 25, and Brook Mattila, 22, of Duluth.
The two, who have been together for more than two years, will attend the wedding party at Tycoons at Old City Hall, the downtown Duluth restaurant and pub where businessman John Goldfine will host a group ceremony at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. They also will have a private ceremony and reception in January.
The Minnesota Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill in May, and the state will begin issuing certificates Aug. 1. Since there is a five-day waiting period, applications were being accepted beginning Friday for marriages that will become valid Aug. 1. Some counties opened filings earlier, but St. Louis officials said they wanted to wait in case there were any legal challenges to the new law.
After signing the certificate and taking an oath, Mattila had tears in her eyes.
“It’ll be a long five days,” she said. “It’s just fun to be a part of history.”
Goldfine said he has a handful of couples signed up for the group ceremony at Tycoons. People have pitched in to help with wedding cakes, photography and other services.
“There’s going to be a lot of people,” Goldfine said. When he came up with the idea, he said he didn’t know if there’d be “two or 200 people” who would show up.
Engstad said there will be several friends and family members coming to what is expected to be the first marriages in the state.
“We just wanted to do this as soon as possible,” she said.
The couple didn’t set out to be the first in line, but they knew they wanted to get to the courthouse early.
Behind them were Kathy McTavish and Sheila Packa. The musician and the poet, both from Duluth and in their 50s, have been together for six years.
They were engaged moments after Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill.
“It was very moving,” Packa said of the filing for marriage. “It’s a very special thing that most people take for granted.”
They won’t get married until Aug. 9 as they prepare for performances at the Fringe Festival in Minneapolis.
Packa said the act she and McTavish performed Friday simply feels good.
“It’s a leap forward,” she said. “This is really an important step for a large segment of the population denied a basic contractual right. Everyone deserves to live with dignity.”
“It’s all a part of saving lives,” Goldfine said. He believes the right to marry will begin to erode any stigmas against gay people, especially among young people.
Tim Robinson and Gary Lundstrom filed for their license during the lunch hour. They also will have a unique experience Thursday. They are planning a ceremony at 7 a.m. at the Rose Garden in Leif Erickson Park. They will treat the wedding guests to breakfast at Pizza Luce afterward.
The couple’s wedding invitation says: “16 years ago we wed. Now we will marry.”
Engstad said the reality of same-sex marriage in the state has been a whirlwind since the fight against the amendment began in 2011.
“It’s been an exciting day,” she said. “I didn’t realize it could all happen this soon.”
“I never thought it would happen in my lifetime,” McTavish said.