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‘Making history in the name of love’ as night turns to morning in Minnesota

As weddings take place, the mayor is not slowing down, and he’s not forgetting to underscore the emphatic “finally” before each “power vested in me.”

At midnight, Cathy ten Broeke and Margaret Miles, with son Louie at their side, became the first same-sex couple to be married in Minneapolis.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen

8:45  p.m.

John Marty stands at the back of the dining room at the restaurant Wilde Roast, a cupcake in one hand. It’s chocolate, with stippled white frosting and the words “I do” written in bright blue. He’s got the wrapper half off, but he keeps getting distracted by people who stop to thank him.

The first legal weddings of same-sex couples are just hours away. The topic may have occupied headlines for two years, but the arrival of the day still seems too surreal for words.

“Wonderful,” Marty says. “Amazing.”

 The Roseville DFLer started introducing bills to recognize same-sex marriages in the Minnesota Senate in 2008 — a lifetime ago for gay-rights advocates. He had planned to introduce the legislation again in 2013, but ended up ceding to his LGBT colleagues Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark.

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“I’ve been invited to more weddings in the next month than in the last 20 years,” he says. “It’s so wonderful. For some of these people this has been a 30-year fight.”

“Married at Midnight,” the party is partly a thank-you to the campaign workers and elected officials who first beat back a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex unions and then pushed on to extend marriage to all Minnesotans. 

The tide turned swiftly, Marty observes. “It’s one of those issues that slowly built and slowly built and then exploded.”

Many of those in attendance were gay and lesbian couples married elsewhere whose relationships were just hours from becoming valid here. Others wanted in on the evening’s celebration but did not get tickets to the City Hall event.

Cupcake consumed, Marty makes his way to the front of the restaurant, where he greets Sen. Branden Petersen, the Andover Republican who voted in favor of the new marriage law — and who draws the loudest round of applause from the over-capacity crowd. 

“This is a night when we don’t need any politics,” Marty says. “We won this one. … People are getting to know people who are different from them.”

Sen. John Marty
MinnPost photo by Terry GydesenState Sen. John Marty attending the Marriage Equality Party Wednesday night.

10 p.m.

 Mayor R.T. Rybak walks into the rotunda at City Hall, a teal tie around his collar and a lavender one in one hand. He’d been trying to find a Minnesota-made tie for the 42-wedding marathon he was about to stage, but couldn’t.

He did end up with a black belt embellished with the shape of the state in rainbow colors. One of the little Minnesotas matches the tie he has on, so teal it is.

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Outside, people are lined up on the sidewalk, waiting to get in. Inside, the 110 members of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus are rehearsing, figuring out how to spread themselves evenly over the two marble staircases leading out of the chamber.

At 11:05, Rybak mounts the steps and picks up a microphone. “Dearly beloved,” he says, “we are gathered here to make history in the name of love.”

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak
MinnPost photo by Terry GydesenMayor R.T. Rybak showing off his rainbow belt prior to the ceremonies.

He’s joined moments later by Mark Dayton, who opted — Rybak must have been sighing with relief — for a lavender tie. The governor seems embarrassed by the applause.

“The real credit for this transformative event goes to all of you and to all the LGBT individuals across Minnesota who had the courage to stand up and say, ‘We deserve the same rights as all of you,’ ” he says.

He is completely upstaged by the appearance of the evening’s first brides.

11:35 p.m.

Cathy ten Broeke and Margaret Miles have spent their lives working to end homelessness. They met at St. Stephen’s Human Services, where Miles still works; ten Broeke heads up the state’s homelessness prevention initiative.

And so when the Rev. James Gertmenian, who, standing by Rybak’s side, starts the ceremony, by speaking symbolically of home — of being shut out of home and welcomed in — several hundred people immediately begin to cry.

“This is good,” pronounces Gertmenian. “Year after year, justice was left homeless, out in the cold. But not tonight. Tonight, when justice knocks, it is not fear that answers but love. Love has finally made it possible for justice to come home.”

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The waterworks continue as the minister reels off the names of people, from Matthew Shepherd to Sen. Allan Spear, who died before the day arrived. Watching from a balcony, older members of the men’s chorus nod and embrace.

Miles and ten Broeke had a commitment ceremony 12 years ago. Their 5-year-old son, Louie, stands between them, loving the limelight. He waves at people in the audience, tugs on his mothers’ dresses and climbs up a couple of steps to sit down.

Louie’s on his second round of waves when Gertmenian turns to Rybak, who is in his final months in office: “I think we have your successor right in front of us.”

Gov. Mark Dayton
MinnPost photo by Terry GydesenGov. Mark Dayton speaking to wedding attendees on Wednesday night.

“We are here to say yes to the life that you have made,” he concludes. “We will welcome at love’s table all who seek solace and joy.”  

By 11:56, vows have been professed. Rings have been exchanged. And it’s not midnight. Rybak wonders, out loud, how to fill the next few moments. He asks the Copper Street Brass Quartet to play for exactly two minutes.

And then suddenly, the moment is there: “By the power finally vested in me by the people of Minnesota, I hereby declare you legally married.”

The second couple of the overnight blitz comes bounding down the staircase.

“Now we begin the process of showing that what became history will now become the norm,” says Rybak.

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1:05 a.m.

Minneapolis residents Pam Daihl and Jane Ginsberg are in the process of doing something they waited for for 33 years. There’s clapping and crying and kisses from friends while Hennepin County District Court Judge Margaret Daly looks for a surface where “we can take care of a little paperwork.”

“Originally I was Pam’s boss,” says Ginsberg, asked what their story is. “She tried to get me fired.”

“You know what they say,” Daihl giggles, “If you can’t beat ‘em.”

 “And” — Ginberg cuts back in — “that was the last time I was ever her boss.”

The two met in California, where they lived together for 30 years and where they are registered domestic partners. That seemed like an arrival, particularly for Daihl, who grew up in conservative Indiana: “This was the furthest thing from my mind.”

Daly is one of seven judges in the City Council’s relatively sedate chambers marrying couples Rybak couldn’t squeeze into the marathon. Also conducting ceremonies inside are Sen. Scott Dibble and Fourth Judicial District Deputy Administrator Kate Fogarty.

Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus
MinnPost photo by Terry GydesenThe Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus serenaded wedding guests prior to the ceremonies that began at midnight.

People are waiting patiently in line, either for an officiant they requested or the next one available. Daly’s husband, Hennepin County District Court Judge Daniel Mably, watches from the door while awaiting his next ceremony.

“Any time you do a wedding it makes you think about the vows you’re saying,” he says. “And that’s especially true when you’ve been waiting as long as these people have.”

Every couple of minutes a cheer goes up from one or another corner of the council chambers. With nine people performing ceremonies, the line moves quickly.

2:58 a.m.

Back in City Hall’s rotunda there has been wedding under a chuppah, complete with broken glass, for which grooms Phil Oxman and Harvey Zuckman waited 38 years. There has been a wedding involving two brides in Hawaiian shirts and leis, an outrageous fake flower sprouting from one’s head cartoonishly.

There have been numerous interracial couples — remarkable partly because that’s no longer what’s remarkable about them. And lots with kids, including a couple of fairy princesses in fluffy net skirts.

There’s been one in which one of the witnesses carried a baby that was days old at most, and another with a pregnant bride. There have been numerous couples in matching garb, and an entire wedding party in rainbow tie-dye.

An older bride was carried up the stairs in the arms of her witnesses, who lowered her to a chair for the service. A few minutes later a ceremony unfolded assisted by a sign language interpreter.

Rybak had, after all, promised to marry anybody — anybody — who wanted him to the second it would become possible. And he is delivering. Between each ceremony he bounds up the marble stairs to meet the next couple to be married.

He’s not slowing down, and he’s not forgetting to underscore the emphatic “finally” before each “power vested in me.” Never mind the hour, the cheer that greets each pronouncement fills the rotunda.