‘Can we get that in writing?’: Weddings continue throughout the first day that same-sex marriage is legal in MinnesotaGary Lundstrom’s face was awash in emotion after he got married Thursday morning.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Gary Lundstrom’s face was awash in emotion after he got married Thursday morning.
As people came to greet him after the ceremony, he repeated — in a strained but thankful voice — a mantra.
“This is my family,” he said. “This is my family.”
Young and old hugged Lundstrom after he was legally married to Tim Robinson in the Rose Garden at Leif Erikson Park in Duluth. The early-morning ceremony was one of many in the Northland as same-sex marriage became state law at 12:01 Thursday.
Days before the wedding, Lundstrom had already been getting emotional, saying how important his marriage would be in telling family and friends and the world that he and Tim are a couple like anyone else.
“This time in our history can and is sending the message to young gay people that they’re normal and wonderful and worth loving and being loved just the way they are,” Lundstrom said.
There were a broad range of emotions all day as weddings began just before midnight Wednesday at Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery. Five couples were legally wed when it became Aug. 1. Lundstrom and Robinson were married at 7 a.m. Other couples took vows at the St. Louis County Courthouse in the afternoon.
“We’ve been together 35 years,” said Dick Casebeer after Judge Heather Sweetland performed his wedding to John Dettwiler. Both are from Michigan, where same-sex marriage is not recognized.
“We’ve waited long enough,” Casebeer said.
A morning breeze
At 7:35 a.m. Thursday, Duluth Mayor Don Ness pronounced Tim Robinson and Gary Lundstrom “legally married” in the state of Minnesota. A few seconds later, Robinson took out the couple’s marriage certificate.
“Can we get that in writing?” he said to laughter from an audience of about 100 in the Rose Garden at Leif Erikson Park.
The mayor obliged, and Robinson and Lundstrom became at least the sixth couple to get married in Duluth as same-sex marriage became law in the state.
“I have to take this all in,” Lundstrom said on a breezy but sun-speckled morning as he gazed at friends and family.
“Welcome to a new day,” Ness said to open the ceremony. “A new beginning.”
The Rev. David Bard from the Duluth couple’s church, First United Methodist, recalled the day this spring when the Minnesota Legislature passed the same-sex marriage bill. Lundstrom and Robinson pledged to marry again, only this time with all the legal allowances under state law.
Bard expressed his regret that he couldn’t officially marry the couple under United Methodist doctrine.
“We aren’t there yet,” Bard said.
He gave a homily using the metaphor of water under a gazebo that overlooked Lake Superior. He yielded to Ness, who made the official pronouncements.
“That’s a good start,” Ness said after Robinson and Lundstrom exchanged vows. Ness performed the ceremony more as a friend than the mayor, Lundstrom said.
Robinson brought tears and laughter as he sang the 1937 Kern and Hammerstein song “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” with modified lyrics.
“Gary and Tim, who used to be Jack and Jill,” Robinson sang. “The folks who live on the hill.”
The signing of paperwork followed, and Robinson celebrated with a simple “yay” with his hands raised. The witnesses cheered.
Dick Casebeer and John Dettwiler knew Sharon Cashin and Pat Grasser as “those lesbians who live in the blue house,” Casebeer said with a laugh Thursday afternoon. Dettwiler actually met the couple when he volunteered to move a couch for them.
The four have been friends ever since in their tiny town of Grand Marais, Mich. They decided to drive west to Minnesota to be married under the new law. Michigan does not recognize same-sex marriages.
The two couples were married at 4:30 p.m. in Judge Heather Sweetland’s courtroom on the fourth floor of the St. Louis County Courthouse.
Somewhere along the line, Casebeer and Dettwiler’s Ford pickup was decked out with rally flags and soap-written windows that all said “Just Married.” The kicker was a trail of aluminum cans clanking behind them as they left the courthouse circle. The two men have been together for 35 years.
The women, who have been together for 44 years, had the idea of coming to Duluth. While the marriages won’t be recognized by their home state, they will be recognized by federal law. That was a driver, Dettwiler said.
“We know Duluth, come here all the time,” Grasser said. “The date was right.”
They’ve spent a few days in the area taking in the sights and, most importantly for Casebeer, good food.
As antiseptic as a courtroom ceremony may sound, the couples enjoyed it.
“The ceremony was perfect,” Grasser said. “The judge had just the right words.”
Judge Sweetland said she combed over her regular marriage ceremony to make sure it was geared for all couples, gay or straight. It was Sweetland’s first same-sex union. A friend gave her some advice.
“Spouse and legally married,” she said, the replacements for “husband and wife” or “bride and groom.”
“This is the real thing,” Casebeer said.
Festive at midnight
No ceremony Thursday could match the festive nature of the five-couple wedding held at Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery in downtown Duluth. Scores of people piled into the upstairs hallway and Chamber Hall, drinks in hand, to celebrate the couples and the new law.
“This has been a night worth working for,” said Gary Boelhower minutes before the ceremony started. He and his partner, Gary Anderson, will be married later this year after working tirelessly with the Duluth United For All Families group that led the charge to the new law. “It’s just wonderful to be together at this moment.”
The five couples, likely the first to be married in the Northland, were: Brook Mattila and Heidi Engstad, Keith Haugen and Mike Goerdt, Athena Jordon and Susie Mattson, Theresa Neo and Theresa Bobula, Inez Wildwood and Molly Tillotson.