Twelve years later, the wedding dresses that Cathy ten Broeke and Margaret Miles wore for their “commitment ceremony” still fit. In the wee hours of Aug. 1, the couple plan to wear them again. But this time, their marriage will be sanctioned in law.
The lesbian couple made the emotional announcement Thursday that they will hold their official legal wedding just after midnight on August 1, at Minneapolis City Hall. Mayor R.T. Rybak will preside over their wedding, as well as 39 other same-sex marriage ceremonies, in the first minutes and hours after the law legalizing same-sex marriage — signed May 14 by Gov. Mark Dayton — takes effect. Al Giraud and Jeff Isaacson, who met at an NFL football game in Tampa, will be the second gay couple to wed in Minneapolis City Hall.
The opportunity to wed in the eyes of the law has been a long time coming for ten Broeke, 44, Minnesota’s Director to Prevent and End Homelessness, and Miles, 49, Director of Development and Communications for St. Stephen’s Human Services. Their festive 2001 commitment ceremony, performed by a United Church of Christ minister at St. Stephen’s Church — affiliated with the shelter where the two first met — was featured in Minnesota Bride magazine.
“It is hard to express what it feels like … to now know that our beloved Minnesota recognizes our commitment,” said ten Broeke as she and Miles choked back tears, and turned the mayor and many in the audience into a puddle.
In a fit of spontaneous jubilation after the legislature passed gay marriage — and to the chagrin of his staff — Rybak yelled to crowds of same-sex couples at the State Capitol that they should all come to City Hall to tie the knot. The mayor was so fired up, in fact, that ten Broeke and Miles, who were among the revelers, expected Rybak to begin body surfing the crowd, which he has been known to do at concerts. The Minneapolis mayor has long sought to follow in the footsteps of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who married gay couples in his city before California voters passed Proposition 8.
“We are in the middle of one of the great Civil Rights moments in our state’s history,” said Rybak. “I never thought I would be mayor when this law changed. I thought I’d be passing that off for another mayor to do that. I cannot believe that this has happened in this amount of time.”
But for couples like ten Broeke and Miles, the path to marriage-equality has been a difficult one. On ten Broeke’s first day of work for the City of Minneapolis, the day after she returned from their honeymoon, she was forced to declare herself “single” in an routine employment form — single, that is, because she wasn’t in a heterosexual marriage.
Miles recalls that as a 16-year-old gay teenager growing up in Saint Paul, she felt anguish, despair and anxiety about the future. “If I had know it held this (promise), it would have been an easier 16th year.”
The couple’s five-year-old son, Louie, recently told a friend at summer camp that he has two moms and was told that two women can’t be married. “We’re delighted that he’s not gonna hear that very much longer,” said ten Broeke with a smile.
Louie will stand with his two moms during their wedding ceremony on August 1 and he’s excited to stay up all night. As they did 12 years ago, ten Broeke will wear red silk and Miles will wear beaded black.
Between midnight and 6 a.m. on August 1, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus will perform in the City Hall Rotunda as newly wed couples descend the steps to the ground floor. Betty Crocker, a Minnesota household name, will supply wedding cakes; the nearby Hotel Minneapolis will donate a reception space, and a scoreboard in City Hall will tally how long same-sex couples have to wait before marrying.
“We’re already married, in our hearts,” said Miles Thursday. “But to be able to share that with a city and state that’s beloved to both of us is really powerful.”