LOVE IS THE LAW: Minnesota Finally Gets Marriage Equality. For Everyone.

Video by Allison Herrera. Story and photos by Nick Coleman.

Opponents of same-sex marriage in Minnesota warned that legalizing marriage for all would have “unintended consequences.” And it turns out they were right: Patty Hall’s family now finds itself in the weird position of looking forward to an old-fashioned opposite-sex straight wedding ceremony because of the passage of the same-sex marriage law. How? Patty and her partner, Chris Warren, are straight, but refused to get married while marriage was off limits for some people.

Suddenly, the road is clear.

“I had a dream when I was pregnant with him,” Hall said Monday, pointing towards her 9-year-old son, Willy, during the joyous celebration in the State Capitol that followed the Minnesota Senate’s passage of a same-sex marriage bill. “I dreamed that Chris and I shouldn’t get married until all our gay friends could do the same thing. We wouldn’t have eaten in a restaurant that wouldn’t serve black people in the 1950s. And we felt we would be hypocrites to take advantage of our privilege to marry when gays didn’t have equal rights.”

By Tuesday afternoon, after Gov. Mark Dayton signs the same-sex marriage bill into law, Hall, a Minneapolis teacher, and Willy’s dad are going to have “a serious talk” and figure out when their wedding will be. Love is in the air in Minnesota this spring, and not just for same-sex couples. For everyone. Which is why Hall had the name of an old Suburbs song written down her left arm: “Love is the Law.”

The song’s refrain is a pretty good summation of the new same-sex marriage legislation: Wonder what it means?

“Love is the, love is the Love is the, love is the Love is the, love is the law.”

(Editor’s note: Please scroll down to see full coverage of Monday’s historic events)

“There were a lot of unhappy grandparents when we decided we couldn’t get married until everyone could get married,” Hall said, laughing as the celebrations continued in the Capitol Rotunda. “Now, those grandparents will be celebrating a law that they never thought they’d be celebrating, I’m pretty sure about that.”

Very few Minnesotans thought they’d be celebrating a same-sex marriage law this spring, just six months after a ballot initiative that would have written a ban on same-sex marriage into the state Constitution. But that mean-spirited effort, advanced by the last Legislature’s Republican majority, went down in flames, taking Republican control of the Legislature with it. For years — decades — it seemed as if the resistance to marriage equality was permanent and immutable. Then, in the last week, like the sudden fall of Communist rule in East Germany, the wall came tumbling down, leaving a dancing throng to celebrate on its wreckage.

The implications and ramifications, the way things will now work out in the lives of thousands of citizens — gay, straight and indifferent — are just beginning to reveal themselves. “All we are saying is, Give Love a Chance,” thousands of same-sex marriage supporters sang Monday morning as the Senate vote approached.

OK, people. You got it: Love has a chance. Love is alive and well in Minnesota. Who woulda thunk it?

“We moved back to Minnesota from Colorado two years ago and our friends all said, ‘Minnesota? Isn’t that a hick state,’ ” said Gary Lundstrom. “Well, it was, two years ago. Now it’s an incredible state!”

Lundstrom, 55, and his husband, Tim Robinson, 50, came down from Duluth yesterday to be on hand for a moment they had never believed could happen in their lifetimes. The couple has been together 18 years and were “married” in a ceremony in Denver in 1997. Yesterday, they wore T-shirts sporting a photo of their ceremony, with the message: “We Wed 16 Years Ago. Now Let Us Marry.”

They will, in Duluth, on August 1st. They plan to head to the St. Louis County Courthouse to make it legal in the great State of Minnesota. They saw it happen, but could scarcely believe their eyes Monday.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” Lundstrom said. “Practically surreal! We are so proud of Minnesota!”

Margie Wherritt, 63, and Jo Ericksen, 64, of Rochester — married 25 years — were also proud of Minnesota yesterday. But they were even more proud of their family — three children, eight grandchildren and a solid network of family and friends across the country that they have built painstakingly in the face of legal discrimination and societal disapproval.

All suddenly gone, and seeming as obsolete and meaningless as the laws of Hammurabi.

Married so long — at a ring ceremony on Cape Cod — that they finish each others’ sentences like any long-committed couple, the pair were almost speechless as they slowly descended the Capitol steps after the vote, soaking in the sunshine and the atmosphere as same-sex couples jumped into each others’ arms, kissed, hugged and yahooed. “We had a ceremony on Cape Cod because we could hold hands there,” Jo was saying, wistfully. “Now we can hold hands here, just like anybody. I just never thought it was going to happen. Not ever.”

Now they can finally hold hands: Jo Ericksen, left, and Margie Wherritt, of Rochester, have been married 25 years. Finally, they will be street legal in Minnesota.

Other same-sex couples celebrating yesterday had faith that, someday, the law would accept them. But even they were amazed when it finally — and so suddenly — happened.

“I never imagined what this would look like,” said Doug Benson, 59, of Robbinsdale. “What a step forward in this state!”

Benson has been with his husband, Duane Gajewski, for 22 years. The couple got married in Thunder Bay, Canada, in 2003 and plan to get a Minnesota marriage license Aug. 1. Benson has been a familiar sight at the Capitol for years, holding up a shower curtain with a hand-lettered sign supporting marriage equality every time the subject came up. Yesterday, Benson and Gajewski programmed matching iPads after the vote, holding them up in the Rotunda after the vote, with one iPad blinking THANK and the other iPad blinking YOU.

They’ve come a long way since the days of hand-lettered shower curtains. But Minnesota has come an even greater distance: From a harsh rejection of an entire class of citizens — and a refusal to extend them the civil rights that other Minnesotans took for granted — to an open embrace.

Minnesota has changed, fundamentally for the better.

Love is the law. Finally.

Looking back at those distant times — last week — when it wasn’t, you have to ask yourself:

What the hell took so long?

Nick Coleman is Executive Editor of The UpTake.


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