First same-sex couples pick up their marriage licenses

Leisha Suggs and Michelle Farley have been together for nearly seven years, and engaged four of them.
Leisha Suggs and Michelle Farley have been together for nearly seven years, and engaged four of them.

On Thursday morning, Alex Schmit and Zeke Rice walked into the service center in the basement of the Hennepin County Government Center and applied for a marriage license. They had waited 13 years to do so.

"We don't feel like we're rushing into anything," Rice laughs. "It's the kind of thing we never really thought would happen."

See Also:
- Same-sex marriage applications will be available June 6 in Hennepin
- Same-sex couples might have to wait just a little longer to wed in Minnesota
- Mark Dayton signs gay marriage bill into law

When Gov. Mark Dayton signed Minnesota's marriage equality bill into law on May 14, he made it legal for same-sex couples to begin to wed on Aug. 1. But couples eager to make their unions official as soon as possible were faced with a technical question: When would they be able to apply for the necessary license?

The license takes five days to approve, so if the answer to that question was also Aug. 1, then gay weddings wouldn't kick off until Aug. 6. Not long after, Hennepin, Ramsey, and Washington counties clarified that they would begin accepting applications on June 6.

The downtown service center, one of six in Hennepin County, prepared for a crowd when it opened at 7:30. While there didn't end up being lines, by 10 a.m., about a dozen same-sex couples had gotten their licenses, which in Hennepin, are now gender-neutral. The county swapped out the words "bride" and "groom" for "applicant."

"It's easier than getting your driver's license renewed," says Schmit, who proposed to Rice 13 years ago.

Leisha Suggs and Michelle Farley had also had to wait. After dating for three years, Suggs proposed to Farley four years ago. The couple had considered going to Washington, D.C. to get married, but between the five-day waiting period and the fact that any additional rights wouldn't be recognized in their home state, the destination wedding didn't make sense.

"But now we can get married here," says Suggs, while Farley adds, "The minute we could get a marriage license, here we are."

While the couple marvels how much has changed since "two years ago, they voted to have this marriage amendment," says Farley, both women are still aware that some rights remain unavailable to them.

"Even now, it's like, 'Well, why don't we still wait and see what happens with DOMA,'" says Suggs about the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision, which will determine how the federal government views same-sex marriages that are legal state-by-state. Farley's parents live in Mississippi, and when the couple goes to visit, Farley says that she is "very aware of the fact that, if one of us were to get sick, we would be denied access at the hospital."

Both couples plan to put their marriage license to use right away for an early-August wedding -- Schmit and Rice have even e-mailed City Hall to see if theirs can be one of the ones Mayor R.T. Rybak officiates -- but will wait until next spring for a full-on party, in order to allow for planning time and family members' travel plans.

"Our families are very excited," says Rice. "It's pretty significant. We're happy in our relationship, so it seems important to make it official."

Alex Schmit and Zeke Rice hope to be one of the first couples to tie the knot on Aug. 1.
Alex Schmit and Zeke Rice hope to be one of the first couples to tie the knot on Aug. 1.
Olivia LaVecchia

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