Couples wed in Duluth as gay marriage becomes legal in MinnesotaThere probably have been marriage ceremonies at Old City Hall in downtown Duluth before. But not for nearly a century, and certainly not like this.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
There probably have been marriage ceremonies at Old City Hall in downtown Duluth before. But not for nearly a century, and certainly not like this.
Five same-sex couples were married at just after midnight today at Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery, the current incarnation of the historic stone building on East Superior Street.
For many of those now legally married, simple was the key to preparing. It’s why they chose the ceremony at Tycoons.
“I picked the ties up on my lunch hour,” said Keith Haugen, who was greeting friends and family before the ceremony while sitting at the bar with his partner of 27 years, Mike Goerdt. Their ties were a perfect match.
“Why wait?” Haugen said of why they chose to get married at 12:01. “We’ve been waiting all these years and can finally do it. It’s still hard to believe.”
The idea for the event came from John Goldfine, who wanted a place for couples to gather and get married for little cost and to celebrate the new law the second it came into effect. Many of the services provided Wednesday night and early today were donated.
Volunteer photographers flitted about the Chamber Hall an hour before the ceremony while a harpist set the mood among laughter and expectation in voices. Champagne was poured and helped calm the nerves of the couples and those waiting for history to be made.
Goldfine was scrambling to get the paperwork in order as couples filed in after 10 p.m. He was performing the first mass ceremony, set to end just after midnight. Other officiants were on hand for individual ceremonies.
Goldfine’s remarks at the ceremony reflected the struggle to defeat a gay marriage ban last year and then to enact legalized gay marriage this year. He asked those in attendance to thank the people who helped “make this a historic night for all Minnesotans.”
The idea wasn’t unique. Dozens of couples married as the new Minnesota law allowing same-sex marriages went into effect.
Weddings were scheduled to start at the stroke of midnight at Minneapolis City Hall, St. Paul’s Como Park, Mall of America’s Chapel of Love and at county courthouses sprinkled across the state.
“It feels historic. It’s an honor to be a part of it,” said Tim Roberts, the Stearns County court administrator, who planned to perform a 12:01 a.m. wedding at the courthouse in St. Cloud.
Other weddings are scheduled throughout the day today in Duluth, one at 7 a.m. in the Rose Garden at Leif Erikson Park and at least one with a judge at the St. Louis County Courthouse after 4 p.m.
But the first were at Tycoons.
Mark Edwards and Lisa Folmer from The Exchange made special 6-inch raspberry-filled cakes for each couple. Folmer said they didn’t think twice about donating to Goldfine’s cause.
“Right away,” Folmer said. “This is the time. It’s time to be noticed.”
The ceremony was in the Chamber Hall above the grand steps at Tycoons. It holds 49 people and that number had been surpassed with the early arrivals. Table tents on tables at the doors greeted people with the words, “Every love story is beautiful.”
Because so many couples and likely strangers were in the room at one time, Goldfine had them all turn and introduce themselves to whomever they were next to.
He had some advice from his Grandma Fanny, saying that marriage is a 50-50 partnership with both partners needing to give 75 percent.
Rhode Island joins Minnesota today in becoming the 12th and 13th states to allow gay marriage, along with the District of Columbia. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that about 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal.
In Minnesota, budget officials assessing the impact of the law estimated that about 5,000 gay couples would marry in the first year. Its enactment capped a fast turnabout on the issue in a little more than two years. After voters rejected a constitutional ban on gay marriage last fall, the state Legislature this spring moved to make it legal.
Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed Aug. 1 to be “Freedom to Marry Day” in Minnesota.
Athena Jordon and Susie Mattson came down from Hibbing to take part in the Tycoons ceremony. They’ve been on the Iron Range for just a few years and were having trouble finding someone to perform a ceremony. When they heard of the Tycoons event, their problem was solved.
“It was a struggle,” Jordon said of their search.
Two years ago they had a commitment ceremony to celebrate 10 years together. Their preparations Wednesday were simple.
“We were vacuuming, taking care of the pets,” Mattson said. “Just getting ready to be out of town.”
Both said it was, of course, bigger than that. They wanted to be part of history. They’ll have a bigger reception in September.
“It’s a big day for us but also an important day for Minnesota,” Mattson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.