It took a lot to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
“It’s important that we that we have reminders … so the young ones will know and not forget” said Rep. Karen Clark, author of the law that legalized marriage for any two people. “It can be lost. People can forget what it took. I hope that it will be a good reminder.”
That “it” was a bronze plaque unveiled Thursday at Minneapolis’ City Hall, the site of 45 same-sex marriage ceremonies that began just seconds after midnight when the law took effect on August 1, 2013. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said while it seems that so much has changed so quickly for same-sex couples, it’s been a long time coming.
“The reason that we were able to get to August 1, 2013 is because there was not decades, there were centuries of people before us who did everything they could in ways large and small to make it possible for us to organize to make it possible to pass a law, to make it possible for everybody who wanted to to be able to get married in the state of Minnesota.”
Hodges asked the crowd, “If you were married here on August first, raise your hand.” Dozens of hands went up followed by cheers.
Hodges unveiled the historic plaque with the help of Deputy Secretary of State Ann Kaner-Roth, who had been executive director of Project 515, a major force in the formation of Minnesotans United For All Families that resulted in the defeat of the 2012 anti-gay marriage amendment and then the passage of legislation enabling same-sex marriages.
“Guardians of history”
Secretary of State Steve Simon was one of those who fought not one, but two attempts to pass an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment in Minnesota. He told those gathered at City Hall that the first attempt happened nearly ten years ago to the the day, when he was serving in Minnesota’s House of Representatives. “And at the time, those who supported it thought that they were the guardians of history. And why shouldn’t they have thought that? In the previous two elections all around the United States, voters in state after state after state passed really hurtful anti-marriage, anti-civil rights amendments. So they had a case to make that they were the shapers of history.” That version of the constitutional amendment failed to pass both houses of the legislature.
“But wow, what a difference a few years makes,” said Simon. Since then Minnesota voters rejected an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment — and a few months later, the Minnesota legislature legalized same-sex marriage. “I don’t know if I will ever, ever be part of something again in my life, professional or otherwise, that was like this movement.”
R.T. Rybak was Minneapolis mayor when the new law took effect and performed the 45 same-sex couple weddings starting at the stroke of midnight. Even though he’s no longer in office, he still gets requests to preside at weddings. “I can still do weddings. I’ve done plenty since then. I’ve never done that many in one night.” Since then Rybak says he’s done about 20 weddings, mostly same-sex couples. “I actually got a man-woman marriage. It was shocking!”