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Patrick Springer, Published February 08 2012

Fargo gay couple readies for marriage license denial

FARGO – Lenny Tweeden and Wayne Rosell have been committed partners for 25 years.

But, as gay men, they’ve never been able to marry.

Under North Dakota law, marriage is between a man and a woman.

Nonetheless, the two Fargo men plan to go to the Cass County Courthouse this afternoon to apply for a marriage license.

“It’s been in the back of my head,” Tweeden said Wednesday. But he never thought of acting on the idea until a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that California’s Proposition 8 ban of gay marriage was unconstitutional.

Tweeden announced his intentions on Facebook, where he has established a group called 10,000 for ND Gay Marriage, and in a letter to the editor to The Forum.

The online group has more than 3,000 followers.

Charlotte Sandvik, the Cass County treasurer and the official who oversees marriage licenses for the county, is not one of them.

She does not have encouraging news for Tweeden and Rosell.

“By law, I can’t do it,” Sandvik said. “In North Dakota, they have not passed a law for gay marriage.”

So the treasurer said the law will not permit her or her staff to even provide a marriage application to Tweeden and Rosell.

“If he wants to argue the point, he’ll have to call vital records in Bismarck,” Sandvik said.

Tweeden said he doesn’t want any confrontations in the courthouse.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a long thing,” he said. “I’ll ask for it and they won’t give it to me, and I’ll basically leave.”

The appeals court decision on California’s Proposition 8, which might ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, is the latest sign of growing public acceptance of gay marriage, Tweeden said.

“I see momentum,” said Tweeden, 58, who operated a gay bar, My Place, in Fargo from 1983 to 1989 and got former Fargo Mayor Jon Lindgren to issue several gay and lesbian awareness week proclamations.

Sandvik, whose office has issued marriage licenses since 2001, said she has never encountered a marriage license application from a gay couple.

“In a way, I’m surprised,” she said.

Once Tweeden’s request for a marriage license is denied, he’s not sure what his next move might be.

But the thought of another trip to the courthouse – this time to the clerk of court to file a legal challenge – is one possibility.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522