FAQ: Same-sex marriage law

Minnesota's law allowing same-sex marriage goes into effect Aug. 1. On that day, same-sex couples can apply for a marriage license in Minnesota.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced that City Hall will open at 12:01 a.m. that first day, so that -- as he put it -- all Minnesotans can marry. The mayor will officiate weddings that night.

MPR News reporter Sasha Aslanian answers some frequently asked questions about the new law.

Tom Crann: The law goes into effect Aug. 1. What happens then?

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Sasha Aslanian Same-sex couples who have been married in other jurisdictions, like Iowa, Canada, New York, are now recognized as married couples in Minnesota.

Same-sex couples can also apply for a marriage license in Minnesota.

Tom Crann: So they can apply for a marriage license, but can same-sex couples marry on Aug. 1?

Sasha Aslanian Minnesota has a five-day waiting period for marriage licenses. Same-sex couples can apply for a marriage license on Aug. 1, and the soonest they could be married is on Aug. 6.

However, judges in Minnesota can waive the waiting period for "an emergency or extraordinary circumstance." Those circumstances are not defined, but a Ramsey County Clerk says judges tend to practice leniency.

That's if you really, really don't want to wait five days.

Tom Crann: We're also expecting a Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act in June; could that have implications for Minnesota?

Sasha Aslanian Yes. The court is expected to rule on two cases next month having to do with same-sex marriage. One involves California's Prop 8. That will determine the fate of same-sex marriage in California. The other case involves the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, and whether same-sex couples who are legally married in jurisdictions that allow same-sex marriage can be denied federal benefits.

If the court throws out DOMA, Minnesota's same-sex married couples would be seen as married in the eyes of the federal government, which means joint tax returns, social security benefits and the thousand or so other rights and benefits conferred by marriage. If DOMA is upheld, then they would be seen as married in Minnesota, but not by the federal government.

Tom Crann: Aren't there also implications for employers?

Sasha Aslanian Yes, benefits. Project 515, which is one of the groups that pushed for the law change, has been educating employers on what to expect. They may have employees who were married in another jurisdiction, but come Aug. 1, are now married. That will be a change they'll want to be ready for.

Tom Crann: What are you hearing from city clerks?

Sasha Aslanian Well, they'll be re-doing their forms. For example the Ramsey County forms have sections for a female bride and male groom which will have to be redone.

Until Aug. 1, heterosexual couples showing up for marriage licenses still have to raise their right hands and swear that one of them is a man and one of them is a woman, which will remain state law until Aug. 1.

The state expects 5,000 couples to get married the first year.