Even without gay marriage, Minnesota has 1,300 married gay couples
Next November, Minnesota will put on its most heterosexual clothing and head to the voting booths to finally vote down gay marriage in a state that already doesn't allow it.
But! Oh no! Gay Minnesotans have found a loophole that is already devastating the sanctity of blah blah blah: Just drive somewhere else, get gay married, and come back. Newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 1,300 of Minnesota's same sex couples have gotten married in other states. That puts the state just behind the 1,373 gay married couples in Iowa, which actually allows it.
Theresa Redfern-Hall is one half of one of Minnesota's 1,300 same sex married couples. Redfern-Hall and her longtime partner took a bus ride with eight other couples to Iowa in 2009, shortly after gay marriages became legal there.
"It was a statement," Redfern-Hall said, "that this is not right, that we have to travel out of state. I do reget that we had to go to Iowa to do it."
The number of same sex couples boomed nationwide in the last decade, from about 358,000 in 2000 to more than 646,000 last year, according to U.S. News & World Report, which also reports that states where same sex marriage is legal have only slightly more same sex couples than states where it isn't.
Redfern-Hall and her partner had already been together for decades before they took the plunge. She says they got married at the urging of their three children, who were 12, 11 and eight years old at the time.
"Our kids were the ones who said, 'you need to do this,'" Redfern-Hall said. "So we did it."
The nine couples piled into a bus and rode to Des Moines. They all got married in a ceremony at a Unitarian church, then got back on the bus, turned around, and came home. Because their marriage wasn't recognized by Minnesota, Redfern-Hall and her wife, Joni, legally had their last names changed in Minnesota to reflect their union.
Besides the symbolism, Redfern-Hall's marriage doesn't mean much in this state, according to Outfont Minnesota's legal expert Phil Duran. Duran said the law is "ambiguous" at this point as to what a gay marriage means in a state that doesn't recognize it, but said that with the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and a separate in-state DoMA in Minnesota, there would be few legal benefits to such a marriage.
"At the moment," Duran said, "the likely answer is there is no legal benefit for same-sex couples who are married some place and come back."
That's not okay with Redfern-Hall, who said her marriage was not only a sign of her and her partner's love for each other, but a political act.
"It was," she said, "a political statement, to say, you know what, I have been with my partner for over 20 years -- which is a lot longer than a lot of marriages last."
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