Same-sex couples denied marriage licenses in Minneapolis

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by Andy Birkey | March 10, 2009 • Three same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses at the Hennepin County Courthouse on Friday, laying the groundwork for a lawsuit to repeal Minnesota’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA, passed in 1997, prohibits same-sex couples from marrying and defines marriage as between two members of the opposite sex.

Andy Birkey lives in Minneapolis. He is an LGBT community advocate and blogs on politcial, social, and community issues. Read his blog at Eleventh Avenue South

“We feel ecstatic that we are making progress and have done something really tangible in the process,” Duluth resident Jesse Dykhuis told the Duluth News Tribune. She and her partner, Lindzi Campbell, are among several couples gearing up to sue the state. “While we were there, our phones were just exploding with text messages of support from people.”

Doug Benson and Duane Gajewski, a couple from Minneapolis who have been together for 20 years, are helping to spearhead the lawsuit. They, along with Dykhuis and Campbell and one other couple, were denied marriage licenses on Friday. Benson said the clerk at the counter didn’t understand what was going on.

“Where’s your bride?,” “I don’t get it,” and “You can’t do that in Minnesota,” Benson recalled about the initial confusion when two men applied for a license. “We finally called for the supervisor, who did get it and was prepared with copies of the state’s discriminatory marriage statutes, which he handed out to all three couples.”

But some staff at the county office were supportive. “You go get them!” shouted one employee as the couples left.

The lawsuit is being organized by Marry Me Minnesota, a nonprofit group started by Benson. He says Minnesota’s DOMA law is uniquely vulnerable.

“It was passed by the Legislature in the same manner that the state’s recent ‘concealed carry’ gun law was passed,” Benson told the Minnesota Independent in January. “That law was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court because of the manner in which the bill was passed (by being attached as a rider instead of a stand-alone bill).”

Marry Me Minnesota has retained the law firm Mansfield, Tanick and Cohen — the same firm that brought that case against the concealed-carry gun law and won. A formal lawsuit is expected to be filed later this spring.

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