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Danielle Killey, Forum News Service, Published May 13 2013

Moorhead same-sex couple: ‘It’s about security and dignity’

ST. PAUL – Today is Mara Morken and Alex Fogarty’s nine-year anniversary, and the Moorhead couple has plenty to celebrate.

The two women watched from the Minnesota Senate gallery Monday as lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage, bringing a dream of theirs closer to reality.

“It’s not about a wedding; that is not what it means to us,” Morken said. “It’s about security and dignity.”

“That doesn’t mean I won’t have a fantastic dress,” she added, laughing.

Morken and Fogarty plan to marry in Minnesota as soon as they can.

Tim Robinson and Gary Lundstrom spent much of Monday talking, singing and chanting at the state Capitol, but moments after the Senate approved same-sex marriage, the Duluth men were speechless.

They hugged and cried, looking at each other with big smiles on their faces.

“How can our lives change this quick?” Robinson said.

“It’s a shock,” Lundstrom added.

The whole day was emotional for the couple, who have been together for more than 18 years.

It started as they entered the state Capitol and joined in singing “America,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and other songs with a crowd of 2,800.

Later they joined mostly same-sex marriage supporters lining the halls outside the Senate chamber. They laughed and talked with other people in the group in the hot, crowded hallway. Robinson started to lose his voice from singing and talking so much.

“I didn’t expect to feel this good,” he said as they prepared for senators to come into session. “I’m having so much fun meeting people here.”

He was emotional about the impact of the crowd and the pending vote.

“It’s bringing a lot of healing to a lot of hurt for many years,” he said.

Robinson and Lundstrom had their photos snapped throughout the day, drawing attention with signs and shirts printed with a photo of an August 1997 Colorado ceremony they shared.

They plan to get married in Minnesota after the change takes effect at the beginning of August.

“We had no idea this would be happening in our lifetimes,” Robinson said.

But the excitement of the experience, the attention and the crowd shifted toward frustration and anxiety as the day wore on. The two camped out in the Capitol cafeteria, gathered with many others around televisions showing the debate. They were anxious for a vote, and as they heard lawmakers argue against the bill, they also became angry.

“It brings back all those feelings,” Robinson said.

Three floors above, Morken and Fogarty sat in the Senate gallery watching the debate live, and experiencing a similar range of emotions.

“That’s why I wore my waterproof mascara,” Morken said. “I’m going to cry either way.”

The couple wanted the bill to pass so their family can share health insurance and other practical benefits. They have two children.

Morken and Fogarty were among a few who were able to get tickets to the gallery to see the debate. They watched intently as senators spoke, holding seating charts in their laps so they could see the names and faces of the lawmakers.

Experiencing the debate and vote firsthand was a special experience, they said.

“It was an honor to be in the room and hear the speeches in person,” Fogarty said.

But it also had its drawbacks. While they could hear the crowd of hundreds chanting and cheering outside the Senate chamber, Morken and Lundstrom had to stay quiet in the gallery.

“There were times I wanted to yell,” Morken said, and times when she wanted to applaud.

Morken said she also was anxious as lawmakers talked, counting how many were speaking on each side of the issue and wondering if the bill would pass.

When it did, the couple was thrilled.

“I’m elated,” Morken said. “I can’t stop laughing and crying.”

“We’ve been together for nine years. Our relationship isn’t going to change,” Fogarty said, but a wedding and party will be “a celebration of our relationship.”