Same-sex couples shared wedding vows in midnight ceremonies on Aug. 1 in Minnesota, the second Midwestern state to legalize gay marriage.
Gay couples also exchanged vows in Rhode Island, the last state in New England to legalize same-sex marriage.
Minnesota lawmakers passed a marriage equality bill in May, which Gov. Mark Dayton. Same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses in June in Minnesota, where there is a waiting period before couples can wed.
On the eve of a wedding day for dozens of couples in the state, Minnesotans United PAC, the coalition that led the campaign for marriage equality, celebrated with Married at Midnight and a countdown to the sharing of vows.
One of the first ceremonies took place in the Chapel of Love at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Holli Bartelt and Amy Petrich were engaged in a photo booth at the mall. So, they said, it seemed appropriate to have their wedding at the mall chapel at the stroke of midnight.
In Minneapolis, at city hall, Cathy ten Broeke and Margaret Miles, a couple with 12 years together, became the first same-sex couple to marry, with Mayor R.T. Rybak officiating. After exchanging their vows, they shared a Betty Crocker wedding cake made by master bakers at General Mills, where Miles’ parents once worked.
“I didn’t expect to cry quite that hard,” said a beaming ten Broeke.
In a joint statement before the ceremony, the couple said, “We have been 100 percent committed as a family for 12 years. The legal recognition of our commitment by our beloved Minnesota means that our family will have the legal support and protection that every family wants. We are deeply grateful that our son’s generation will grow up knowing not only that they are held in the arms of a loving community, but are also embraced by the protections and privileges that this legal recognition gives.”
Rybak married about three dozen same-sex couples during the celebration, which included a reception at Hotel Minneapolis, wedding photos courtesy of students at the art institute and a performance by the Twin Cities Gay Chorus.
The mayor said Aug. 1 was a day “for freedom and equal rights in the history of Minneapolis, and we are thrilled to celebrate it with the joy and dignity that these two couples, the others that we will marry and everyone in our city deserves.”
He added, “Aug. 2, and every day after it, will be just like every day should be: one where everyone has the freedom to marry and commit for life to the person that they love.”
Dayton, celebrating all the marriages, said, “This is an extraordinary victory for love and commitment. As I said, when I signed the Freedom to Marry into law: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should certainly include the right to marry the person you love. Now it unquestionably does.”
In Rhode Island, government offices opened at regular business hours – 8:30 a.m. – to begin issuing marriage licenses to couples.
Same-sex couples also can marry in California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Washington and Vermont.
Any number of states, including Illinois, could become the next jurisdiction in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage. A marriage equality bill has passed the Illinois Senate and has the support of Gov. Pat Quinn, but still needs votes in the Illinois House.
In Michigan, activists and Democratic lawmakers are exploring routes to overturning an anti-gay marriage amendment and a federal judge is expected to hear a demand for marriage equality later this year.
Drives also are underway for marriage equality in:
• Ohio, where a judge recently recognized the out-of-state marriage of a gay couple.
• Pennsylvania, where a county official outside Philadelphia has begun issuing licenses to gay couples in defiance of state law.
• Florida, where the state’s largest LGBT civil rights group is seeking plaintiffs for a legal challenge.
• New Mexico, where the state attorney general has sided with the ACLU and same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. • Oregon, where activists are gathering signatures for a ballot initiative in 2014.
• New Jersey, where lawmakers are working to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a marriage bill but also pursuing a ballot initiative and a legal challenge.
Meanwhile, support for legalizing same-sex marriage continues to climb with voters. In a nationwide Princeton poll in early July, 52 percent of voters said they’d support a federal law making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.