No more waiting: Gay couple makes it legal at Duluth-Superior Pride Festival weddingEvery wedding has its wrinkles. For Richard Swenson and Rob Denk, they had the venue, they had the tent, they had the cupcakes and champagne, they had the rings and the best men.
By: John Lundy , Duluth News Tribune
Every wedding has its wrinkles. For Richard Swenson and Rob Denk, they had the venue, they had the tent, they had the cupcakes and champagne, they had the rings and the best men.
What they didn’t have, as the appointed hour of noon on Saturday came and went and as the St. Cloud, Minn., men sat on plastic chairs under a white party tent within sight of the main stage of Bayfront Festival Park, was someone to officiate.
“It’s killing me,” acknowledged Swenson, 41, about the unexpected delay.
Denk, 58, much the calmer and less expressive of the two men, said it was killing him, too.
Just outside the tent, Lynn Youngblom, who was in charge of the weddings at the Duluth-Superior Pride Festival along with Cheryl Hager, had a cell phone pressed to her ear.
“We’re scrambling,” Youngblom said between calls.
Dan Fuchs, who was scheduled to officiate, hadn’t shown up. The scramble unearthed one man at the festival who had been
ordained years earlier but wasn’t sure if his license was still valid, and another who was sure of his license and could sign the paperwork but said he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, conduct the ceremony.
As the tent began to fill with the parties for two subsequent weddings, Youngblom put in a call to Ken Buehler, executive director of the Depot, who said he could be there to officiate in half an hour.
But at 12:30 Fuchs arrived, a bottle of water in one hand and a stack of papers in a manila envelope in the other. He sat with Swenson and Denk, carefully going through the paperwork. At 12:40, they stood in front of Fuchs, facing each other under a trellis. Swenson, wearing a black shirt and white shorts, couldn’t keep his legs still but smiled broadly. Denk, wearing a white shirt and black shorts, stood solidly, a steady smile on his face.
The two men, both of whom could be described as burly, have been together for 15 years. They don’t necessarily fit people’s image of gay men, Swenson said.
“Other people, when they meet us, don’t realize that we are gay,” he said. “It’s not how we carry ourselves. We are who we are, and there’s no need for us to change that.”
Denk is retired; Swenson manages the deli at Wal-Mart. It’s the first marriage for Swenson, but Denk has been married before. He has five children, ages 26 through 35, and eight grandchildren. The men see themselves as equally parents and grandparents to the offspring.
“Genetically, they’re his,” Swenson said. “Attitude and demeanor, they’re mine.”
They weren’t able to move quickly enough to marry on Aug. 1 when same-sex marriage became legal in Minnesota, Swenson said. But they didn’t want to wait too long, either.
“We’d rather get it in now in case the law does change,” he said.
So when they learned Pride Festival would be providing a wedding tent, they decided on Labor Day weekend in Duluth.
“We always come up here for Pride anyway,” Swenson said.
None of the children was able to attend, but all are supportive, Denk said. They will gather next year for a renewal of vows, Denk said.
As Fuchs began the short ceremony, his voice barely could be heard over the sounds of a rock band emanating from the main stage. Fortuitously, a break in the music came just as Fuchs reached the vows.
With that completed, Fuchs declared the men “forever legally married.” They exchanged a quick kiss and a long hug. Although their party consisted only of one best man apiece, the filled-up tent erupted in applause. A second wave of applause followed as the men toasted each other with glasses of champagne produced by Aly Maki of Savories Catering.
In the moments afterward, the exuberant men said the delay really hadn’t mattered.
“We waited 15 years,” Swenson said. “What’s 40 minutes?”