By the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights
On August 1, 2013, the same-sex marriage bill for Minnesota took effect, making it the first in the Midwest to legalize same-sex marriage by legislative vote. In celebration, the City of Minneapolis, under the leadership of Mayor R.T. Rybak, hosted a night-time ceremony where same-sex couples would be married in City Hall. Some of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights staff volunteered to assist with the event. The following is a firsthand account of our perspectives:
I hurried up to City Hall at 10 p.m. on July 31, 2013. This was a strange feeling for me, as I’m usually coming through the front doors at 7:45 a.m. Tonight was special: several of my coworkers and I had agreed to volunteer for an event — to be part of history— as Minneapolis’ first same-sex newlyweds became officiated at the stroke of midnight. Armed with my iPhone and every intention of seeing it all, I made my way past the food trucks and the throngs of people on the sidewalk, and entered the rotunda of Minneapolis City Hall.
Everyone, dressed in festive wedding attire, fidgeted with anticipation. A murmur swept all through the building as people found seats, family, friends and coworkers, to watch the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus rehearsal. I managed to get a hold of a program from Miriam, an Urban Scholar, and learned there would be several speakers and performances this evening.
Suddenly, I noticed the volunteers group was walking briskly up to the other floors as staff handed out assignments, and I rushed to check in and grab a name tag proudly declaring me an official VOLUNTEER. I discovered I’d be helping direct some of the indoor traffic, guiding people to the level in City Hall indicated on their tickets. The best news was, the coordinators said that after everyone had gotten situated, we could leave our posts to watch the event.
After greeting event-goers and directing them to the rotunda for a bit, I was told I could watch the goings-on from the balcony. I began to walk towards the main area when I heard a song drifting down the hall toward me. What was…? Yes, it was definitely Chapel of Love. By the time I got into the room, they were onto Etta’s At Last.
I emerged into the rotunda on the third floor, and could already tell the amount of guests had quadrupled. A group of paparazzi had commandeered a section and expertly stood on chairs to get the best shots. In between walking from floor to floor to try to get the best view, I enjoyed the music and excitement, and took entirely too many photos just like everyone else.
When it came time for the first women legally married in Minnesota — Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke — to walk down the aisle, it was announced by the Copper Street Brass Quintet playing All You Need is Love. Then the vows were exchanged, and there was a speech about the voice of love, rejoicing, and justice.
The second couple, Al Giraud and Jeff Isaacson, were brought on with a bright fanfare from the quintet, and were married shortly after. A beautiful, soulful choir song rang through City Hall, and saw a lot of warm smiles (and a few tears) from people who passed me. When I went back towards City Council Chambers, I got to meet some of the other couples who were about to be officiated in small groups, while Mayor Rybak officiated more couples back in the rotunda.
This night will always be special; for me it was a beautiful reminder that everyone deserves a chance to be happy, and it is always worth fighting for to be with the one you love.