DFL House candidate Omar clarifies marriage history

Celebrating the win
Ilhan Omar holds her daughter and hugs a supporter of her campaign after learning she'd won the primary election, Tuesday, Aug. 9, at Kalsan Restaurant in Minneapolis.
Chris Juhn for MPR News

Just a week after the political high of her historic primary win, Ilhan Omar divulged details of her complicated marital status.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, Omar said she married Ahmed Hirsi — the father of their three children — in a Muslim ceremony and is legally married but physically separated from another man, who lives in England.

A discrepancy in her marriage records came to light after reports suggested she may be married to two men.

She said it's "a difficult part of my personal history that I did not consider relevant in the context of a political campaign."

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Omar defeated longtime state Rep. Phyllis Kahn in a three-way Democratic primary last Tuesday.

But on Sunday, conservative blog Power Line suggested Omar was married to both Hirsi and Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, and that Elmi could be her brother whom she was marrying to bring to the U.S. illegally.

A marriage certificate from Hennepin County shows Omar and Elmi married in 2009. In a statement earlier this week, Omar denied "baseless" rumors and declined further interviews.

Wednesday evening, she released a more specific statement.

"I have yet to legally divorce Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, but am in the process of doing so," she said. "Insinuations that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is my brother are absurd and offensive."

Omar is poised to make history as the country's first Somali-American state lawmaker with an expected victory in November's elections. Her opponent is Abdimalik Askar, also Somali-American. The district is considered a safe one for Democrats.

In 2002, Omar and Hirsi applied for a marriage license but never "finalized the application." In 2008, the couple split "in our faith tradition," according to her statement.

She started a relationship with Elmi, whom she legally married in 2009 but divorced in a 2011 Muslim ceremony.

That same year, Omar and Hirsi reconciled.

"We have married in our faith tradition and are raising our family together," she said. "Like all families, we have had our ups and downs but we are proud to have come through it together."

Omar said she wanted to put the baseless rumors to rest "and return to what really matters: how we join together to build a more prosperous and equitable district and state."