The day after reform: What happens now that same-sex marriage is legal in Minnesota?


With Governor Dayton’s signature on Tuesday at 5 PM on Tuesday May 14, same-sex marriage will be signed into law. The question though is what’s next, and what will change as a result of legalization of same-sex marriage? Here is what we know based on Minnesota law and what has happened in the other 11 states that have already legalized same-sex marriage.

Nothing Changes

Don’t expect same-sex couples to be able to marry come Wednesday. The law does not take effect on August, 1, the usual default date for legislation signed into law in Minnesota.

Expect some groups opposed to same-sex marriage to challenge the law in court, claiming either that it violates the First Amendment Free Exercise clause, the Minnesota Constitution’s Liberty of Conscience clause, or some other provision of the federal Constitution. These challenges will fail.

Opponents of same-sex marriage will vow political reprisal and revenge against those who voted in favor. For the most part, this revenge will not occur. There is little evidence that votes for same-sex marriage have hurt legislators, although Republicans voting for it may be more vulnerable in party primaries. Among Democrats, there are no more than 14 House members who are vulnerable in 2014 and they are so because of close elections in 2012. Of those 14, perhaps ten might lose as a result of their vote, but 2014 elections are 18 months off and many other factors will affect the fate of these 10 House members. The Senate in not up for election until 2016 and thus not affected by the vote in 2014.

The United States Supreme Court’s two decisions on same-sex marriage (DOMA and the California Prop 8) will have no impact on what happens in Minnesota, practically no matter what they decide. If anything, legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota may mean that other states may recognize marriages performed here or that Minnesota will recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Opposite-sex couples will continue to marry, have children, and get divorces at the same rate as they did before same-sex couples could get marred.

Couples will still have the option to have civil ceremonies or marriages performed in churches, temples, or synagogues, and religious officials will still have the option to refuse to perform ceremonies or marry people, just like they did before.

Legalization of same-sex marriage does not mean polygamy should be legalized or that soon (or at all) people will be able to wed animals, children, or that child molestation will increase.

Do not expect society or the state in Minnesota to degenerate into anarchy or immorality.

The federal and state constitution still protects freedom of religion.

Everything changes

Up to 10,000 same-sex couples will be eligible to marry in Minnesota with estimates that 30% will do so within one year and 50% within five years.

Same-sex couples from around the country will visit or relocate to Minnesota to marry.

Same-sex couples will marry, adopt and raise children, and divorce.

The wedding, hospitality, and tourism industry will benefit from the right of same-sex couples to marry and added tax revenues from these activities will offset any costs to the state in terms of expenditures for benefits for same-sex couples.

Minnesota businesses may find it easier to recruit younger workers to the state because of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Richard Florida and others note a positive connection between GLBT-friendly policies and economic development.

As a result of legalization in Minnesota, more people will support same-sex marriage (in opinions polls) by the 2014 elections than they do now.

Minnesota becomes the 12 state to allow for same-sex marriage, but it is unclear how many more states will legalize it short of court decisions. California, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, and maybe Colorado may be the next states to act, but after that it is hard to see may other legislatures legalizing it.