Same-sex couples might have to wait just a little longer to wed in Minnesota

When will the first couple actually be allowed to wed legally in Minnesota?
When will the first couple actually be allowed to wed legally in Minnesota?

Since Gov. Mark Dayton signed the gay marriage bill into law Tuesday, same-sex couples around the state have already begun planning their weddings, many hoping to wed the day the law goes into effect on Aug. 1.

But those couples looking to be among the very first to legally marry in Minnesota might want to hold off on booking that venue. At this point, it's still unclear if the first marriages will actually be allowed to take place Aug. 1, or if couples will have to wait until Aug. 6.

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As is customary, it takes five days for a county to approve a marriage license. Since the law goes into effect Aug. 1, it's possible that couples won't be able to apply for a license until that day.

In cases of emergency or extraordinary circumstances, judges occasionally expedite the license process. But the definitions of what constitutes "emergency" or "extraordinary" are vague, and it's unclear if they would apply here, writes Scott Landsman, who offers analysis of the marriage law on his blog.

According to Landsman, the timeline on granting the first marriage licenses could come down to discretion of individual registrars:

This could be interpreted differently by different local registrars. One could say that since the current state of the law is a prohibition on same sex marriage that a same sex couple will have to wait until the law becomes effective on August 1. If that is the interpretation, then applications could be made August 1 with the 5-day "waiting" period. Meaning that the license will not be issued on the 1st. Alternatively, a local registrar could make the determination that since the law is in fact changing August 1 that the application is valid. If a local registrar utilizes this interpretation I believe that he or she would most likely not make the license available until the law becomes effective - 12:01 a.m., August 1, 2013. I would think that most local registrars would be cautious, choosing the former, since there is a possible statutory damages claim if they get it wrong.

Earlier this week, the city of Minneapolis sent out a press release saying City Hall would be open for marriages -- officiated by Mayor R.T. Rybak, no less -- beginning at 12:01 the first day gay marriage is legal in Minnesota. The statement didn't specify a date, so we asked officials at Hennepin County to clarify, but it seems they're still figuring that out.

"Hennepin County is currently studying the various aspects of complying with the new marriage legislation," says Kathy Schons, director of Hennepin County's service center division, in an email. "More information will be forthcoming but I am unable at this time to give a date certain when that information will be available. Until such time we are unable to answer your questions."

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