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A look at Minnesota’s new gay marriage law

Gay couples get married early Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, at the Clay County Courthouse in Moorhead, Minn. Weddings were performed at the stroke of midnight in cities all over Minnesota this morning as the law allowing same-sex marriages went into effect. David Samson / The Forum

By Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- Here are details about a Minnesota law that allows same-sex couples to marry:

 The law

Minnesota law has restricted marriage to between men and women, but a bill the governor signed May 14 allows “civil marriages” between any two people other than close family members.

The law says that clergy and religion-related organizations are not required to participate in a gay marriage. “Civil” was added before “marriage” in state law to further clarify that clergy are not forced to marry gays.

However, opponents of the law say businesses and groups not closely affiliated with a church could be required to serve gay couples.

Related story: Across state, celebrations large, small as same-sex couples wed


The federal Census Bureau reports 10,207 same-sex couples in Minnesota, nearly five of every 1,000 households.

A study indicates half of the same-sex couples will want to get married in the next three years.

Same-sex couples live across the state, but in the highest densities in the Twin Cities and northeastern Minnesota.

Fifty-four percent of same-sex couples are female and 46 percent male. Sixteen percent of same-sex couples are raising children they consider their own.

Other states

While more than two dozen states have constitutional provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman, there appears to be a trend to allow same-sex marriages.

Other states allowing gay marriages are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The Illinois Senate has passed a similar provision, but the House has not.

Minnesota is the first Midwestern state to legislatively approve gay marriage. In Iowa, it was legalized by the state Supreme Court.

Some states, including Wisconsin, do not allow gay marriages, but have laws that provide some benefits for same-sex couples.


A UCLA Williams Institute analysis claims that allowing gay couples to marry would provide Minnesota a $42 million economic boost in the first three years.

At the same time, officials estimate that state employees’ gay spouses would cost the state $1.3 million in the next two years in health insurance benefits.

Minnesota history

In 1971, bills were introduced to define marriage as a civil contract only between a man and a woman.

The 1997 Legislature passed a bill to ban gay marriage; it became law. A bill to authorize same-sex marriage also was introduced that year, but did not pass.

Bills were introduced in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to amend the state Constitution to ban gay marriage.

In 2009 and 2010, the Legislature considered bills to make marriage gender neutral. Other bills would have required Minnesota to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. At the same time, bills returned to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the Constitution.

In 2011, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Voters rejected the constitutional gay marriage ban in 2012, the first state to go against a tide of anti-gay marriage proposals. The campaign that turned back the amendment remained in force to lobby legislators to pass gay marriage.

This year, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed, and Democrat Dayton signed, a bill to overturn existing state law that banned gay marriage.

New benefits

Some benefits gay couples gain under the new law include, as reported by pro-gay marriage Project 515:

– Public health facilities are required to notify the family when a patient is moved or the patient’s care changes.

– The spouse of a hospital patient is the first person a doctor consults if the patient cannot consent to treatment.

– Gays will be allowed to visit spouses in the hospital.

– Health and accident insurance policies will be able to cover gay couples.

– Schools will be able to deal with gay couples with children in early-childhood programs.

– Spouses of corporate board members are authorized to vote on behalf of the board member.

– A surviving spouse has rights when some businesses are inherited.

– Spouses receive workers’ compensation benefits when a spouse is killed at work.

– Families of people killed during crimes are entitled to restitution.

– Someone married to a military member may vote by absentee ballot.

– Minnesotans may submit their spouses’ political campaign donations.

– Spouses have the right to control disposition of spouses’ remains.

– The surviving spouse of a law enforcement officer killed on duty may receive a $100,000 payment.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer requires the federal government to treat straight and gay couples the same. Federal laws such as allowing couples to file a joint federal income tax return and those dealing with Social Security were changed by the ruling.

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