Three metro counties began taking applications for marriage licenses from same-sex couples on Thursday, marking another milestone for Minnesota.
Minnesota's new law allowing same-sex marriage goes into effect eight weeks from now, on Aug. 1. The early application window gives couples who want to marry as soon as it becomes legal a chance to get their paperwork ready.
Gentry Holloway and Martha Whiteaker of Minneapolis were among the first couples waiting in line at 7:30 a.m. today at the Hennepin County Government Service Center. The school nurse and airline pilot brought along their two young sons.
"We feel like we've been married 15 years but this just really legitimizes the whole things legally and financially," Holloway said. "It's a big deal to us."
A media scrum followed the first couples inside to the service counter.
The mood was celebratory, a far cry from the contentious 18-month battle over a failed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, followed by a Capitol debate marked by vigils, prayers and rallies. Instead, the focus was on the mundane details of filling out a government form.
"Any previous marriages?" Hennepin County Service Center Specialist Pauline Douglas asked. Holloway and Whiteaker replied in unison, "No."
"And it looks like you guys did the premarital," Douglas noted. "So that's good."
The women received a discount on the license because they completed premarital counseling. Whiteaker said there wasn't a lot of new information at the counseling sessions.
"Communication, conflict resolution, things we've been doing for 15 years anyway," Whiteaker said.
Their son, Jack, 10, clutched the "Chronicles of Narnia" book he brought along to read in case there was a long wait. Instead, he found himself fielding reporter questions about how he felt about the whole thing.
"[I'm] nervous and excited about what it will be like," Jack said, adding that all the reporters made him feel awkward.
The women don't plan to marry on Aug. 1 when the law changes, but soon after that, they'll return to Shovel Point on the north shore to hold a small wedding where five years ago they held a commitment ceremony. Holloway joked with Jack and her son, Josh, 6, about having them serve as witnesses.
"I thought you could be our witness but you have to be 16. Together you could be," Holloway said.
'ENGAGED' FOR 38 YEARS
At another counter, Harvey Zuckman and Phil Oxman, both in their 60s, applied for their marriage license.
"We've been looking forward to this a long time," Oxman said.
"A long time," Zuckman echoed. "We say we've been engaged for 38 years, but really never ever imagined we'd see this in our lifetime, frankly. But here we are!"
As the two completed their paperwork, Hennepin County's Kathy Brosdahl played her role with relish.
"And now, Phillip and Harvey, for the big moment, please raise your rights hands," Brosdahl said, as the applicants took an oath that the information provided on their application was true and correct to the best of their knowledge.
The men say they'll do their civil marriage Aug. 1, and have a religious ceremony at their synagogue next May. Oxman has been busy booking the band, the reception hall and the rabbi.
He reflected on what legal marriage will mean for them.
"I think our relationship will change," Oxman said. "First of all, I can call him my husband."
The word makes him choke up. Zuckman fills in the meaning.
"We worry a lot about our future," Zuckman said. "That we want to make sure that even after one of us is gone that we're taken care of."
The men turn back to the counter where Brosdahl waits to hand them the envelope with their marriage license.
"Congratulations Phillip, Congratulations Harvey," Brosdahl tells them. "Have a great day."