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Same-sex marriage law goes into effect

John Hageman | Bemidji Pioneer Mary Roberts-Salter, left, holding Carlos, and her partner Candy Roberts-Salter, with Luis, are planning to get their marriage license now that same-sex marriage is legal in Minnesota.

BEMIDJI -- Candy and Mary Roberts-Salter have already had two wedding ceremonies in the 15 years they've been together.

They had a small ceremony cementing their commitment to each other more than a decade ago and a larger wedding with family and friends a few years after that. And later this month, they will make it official in the eyes of the state of Minnesota, thanks to same-sex marriage becoming legal here Thursday.

Couples across the state were married early Thursday, with the largest celebration taking place after midnight in Minneapolis City Hall.

Candy and Mary Roberts-Salter planned on getting their license Thursday in Park Rapids -- they live in Hubbard County -- before getting married Aug. 11.

The couple, who helped the campaign to defeat the marriage amendment last year and pass the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in May, said it was important for them to get their license right away.

"It's really just not the same," Candy said while she sat in the basement of the Headwaters Universalist Unitarian Fellowship in Bemidji, where she is the treasurer. She has officiated weddings there, ironically, but has not been able to do the same with Mary. "This really does feel important to us."

Others felt the same way. Beltrami County accepted three marriage license applications Thursday, two of them for same-sex couples, according to Debbie Reierson, the county's license center director.

Day-to-day life for the Roberts-Salter couple and their two adopted sons, Luis, 8, and Carlos, 7, will not change much after their marriage is legally recognized. But the financial and legal benefits that come with a civil marriage are important to them.

"This last part will bring the legal marriage to us, which gives us protection for our family and security for our family, security for the boys," Mary said. "And that our union is as valid as any other couples' unions and deserves the same protections."

That, and the recognition of their commitment made Gov. Mark Dayton's signing the bill into law on May 14 emotional for the couple.

"I think it felt like an affirmation of us and our family," Mary said. "People were just running

up and saying, 'Congratulations!' You know, just people off the street we didn't even know that well but they felt for us what that would mean."

Margaret Kelly and her partner Eileen will be getting their marriage license in Ramsey County, where they live, in the next week. On Aug. 17, they'll come to the Bemidji area to have their wedding officiated by Margaret's dad, the Rev. Bob Kelly, pastor of People's Church.

Margaret and Eileen, who have a 10-month-old daughter named Francis and will be taking Kelly's last name, had a church wedding in 2011 and debated whether to go through the legal process right away. But ultimately, it will make it easier for them to buy a house and have more kids in the future if they choose, Margaret Kelly said.

"If we had not had a child, we might still be debating whether to do a legal marriage," she said. "But we feel like this keeps all of us safe and protected."

Among the legal difficulties they've faced is Francis's birth certificate, which currently lists Margaret as her only parent, as she gave birth to her.

"So it looks like she only has a single mom," Margaret said. "And we're a family and she has two loving parents."

But once their marriage becomes legal, they'll amend the birth certificate to reflect the fact she has two parents.

"We are not very interesting," she added later. "I'm a pastor, she works for the state of Minnesota, we have two dogs, a cat and a kid. And so if one of us were a man, no one would bat an eye about us."

Candy Roberts-Salter said having their marriage legally recognized will benefit their sons as well. She said the boys have already been having intelligent discussions with older kids at school about gay marriage.

"Especially since having the boys, it feels really important that they also know and can see that we are a family like their friends' families," Candy said. "No different."

"Yeah we're different," young Carlos interjected. "Because (my friend) has a mom."

"And a dad," Candy added. "And what do we have?"

"A mom and a mom," Carlos replied.

"So every family's a little bit different," Candy told her rambunctious son sitting in her lap. "So for me the important part of a family is that we love each other and we help each other and support each other."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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