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Congratulations to Rhode Island and Minnesota
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/31/13
Last updated on: 08/01/13
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Congratulations to Rhode Island and Minnesota on the dawn of marriage equality. On August 1, 2013, laws legalizing same-sex marriage in the states went into force. They became the twelfth and thirteenth U.S. states (along with the District of Columbia) in which gay and lesbian couples enjoy equal marriage rights. Marriages began at the earliest possible moment after the law took effect in Minnesota, where even Betty Crocker celebrated Happy Marriage Equality Day.

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed his state's marriage equality bill into law on May 2, 2013, immediately after the House of Representatives completed work on the bill. A long-time ally of the glbtq community who had called for equal marriage in his 2011 inaugural address, Chafee said that "marriage equality is an issue where doing the right thing and the smart thing are one and the same."

In announcing his intent to sign the bill, he exulted that what was once a lonely position is now a popular one, at least in the Northeast. "A historic realignment is happening all around us, as Americans from all walks of life realize that this is the right thing to do. It is occurring both inside and outside of politics, through conversations at the office and over kitchen tables, and at different speeds in different parts of the country."

On May 13, 2013, on a 37-30 vote, the Minnesota Senate passed the marriage equality bill that had previously been passed by the state House. On May 14, Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law during a ceremony held on the steps of the capitol building.

The Minnesota bill came about after a Republican attempt to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage was defeated by the voters in the historic election of November 2012. That election resulted not only in the defeat of the ban, but also in a realigned state legislature where Democrats were swept into control of both the House and the Senate.

The celebrations on the night of July 31, 2013 were somewhat subdued in Rhode Island. Because many same-sex couples there have already been married in neighboring states and had their marriages recognized in their home state, the change that began on August 1 is somewhat less profound than that in Minnesota, which did not recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

Ray Sullivan, a former state legislator who was the campaign director of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, said "We have a few celebrations planned, but nothing really big. There are already thousands of gay and lesbian married couples in Rhode Island because of our proximity to Massachusetts and Connecticut."

Officials in Rhode Island began issuing licenses when offices opened at 8:30 a.m. on August 1. A couple who have been together for 41 years, Federico Santi and John Gacher, arrived early at the Newport clerk's office. They had previously been joined in a civil union, so they were immediately married after receiving their license. Newport City Clerk Kathleen Silvia called Thursday "a day of smooching" in Rhode Island.

Newport's Channing Memorial Church will hold a service of celebration for the first day of marriage equality in Rhode Island on August 1. Rev. Dr. F. Jay Deacon, the senior minister of Channing Memorial Church, said that the service is intended to mark an exciting turning point in history.

Another Rhode Island celebration on August 1 will be the large bash planned by state Representative Frank Ferri and his husband Tony Caparco. The two were married in British Columbia in 2006, but for their home-state celebration they will be married again in a ceremony presided over by House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is also gay.

"It's more than just about us getting married. It's about celebrating the effort that led to this," Ferri told Patrick Condon in the Providence Journal.

The celebrations in Minnesota were more numerous and more elaborate than those in Rhode Island. Whereas Rhode Island is the last of the New England states to achieve marriage equality, Minnesota is only the second of the Midwestern states.

In an event that began on the night of July 31 and stretched into the morning of August 1, the City of Minneapolis hosted an extravaganza at City Hall in celebration of marriage equality in the state. Mayor R.T. Rybak and other officiants performed ceremonies for 42 same-sex couples.

The Minneapolis event included cakes provided by General Mills, which has been the target of a failed boycott by the National Organization for Marriage because of its support for marriage equality.

The company made certain that there is no question that their iconic marketer Betty Crocker supports all marriages. As part of a cake taste testing party, three same-sex couples got to choose three cake flavors and a traditional wedding cake to be made compliments of Ms. Crocker herself.

Jon Collins reported on Minnesota Public Radio that the first couple to be married in Minneapolis would be Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke, who have a 5-year-old son. The couple held a large wedding ceremony for family and friends 12 years ago, but ten Broeke said the ceremony on August 1 was special because it's a shared event.

"What's different about this is not only the fact that we'll be legally wed, but that we are sharing in this moment with hundreds and hundreds of other couples throughout the state, and just marking this moment of justice and equality for so many of us," she said.

St. Paul hosted its first midnight wedding at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Courthouses in Polk and Clay counties also offered midnight ceremonies. There was even a wedding at 12:01 a.m. on August 1 at the Mall of America's Chapel of Love.

The Minnesota state House Democratic Farmer Labor Caucus issued the following video, set to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's marriage equality anthem "Same Love," wishing Happy Marriage Equality Day to all Minnesotans.

Minnesota's Democratic state senators added their congratulations.

Minneapolis's KARE reports on Betty Crocker's support of marriage equality.

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