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Patrick Springer, Published June 28 2013

Clay County Courthouse to hold midnight same-sex marriage ceremony Aug. 1

MOORHEAD – Clay County will allow same-sex couples who want to be among the first to be married under a new state law to tie the knot in a civil ceremony just after midnight on Aug. 1.

That’s the date when Minnesota law will recognize same-sex marriages.

Given the historic occasion, the Clay County Courthouse will be open and two judges will be on hand to perform a mass civil wedding ceremony.

“It’s a big law change and a lot of people are excited about it,” Bonnie Rehder, Clay County’s recorder and vital record registrar, said Friday.

“I’m not aware that we’ve ever done a group-type wedding before,” she said, though she added that judges actually perform civil weddings.

Joshua Boschee, who is active in the Fargo-Moorhead gay community, said he knows some couples want to take advantage of the new Minnesota law.

He received a text message Friday afternoon from one couple asking him if he would be available to witness their civil marriage if they decide to take part in the historic mass ceremony.

“It’s a great opportunity for Minnesota and it’s a disappointment for North Dakota,” Boschee said, noting that North Dakota does not allow same-sex marriages.

“I think we’re going to see more people jump over to the Moorhead side of the river, because it looks like the benefits will follow them,” he said, referring to spousal benefits.

Clay County will start accepting applications for a civil marriage license by same-sex couples on July 17.

Early acceptance of applications will provide time for the five-day waiting period to enable couples to marry Aug. 1.

The Clay County Courthouse will open at 11:30 p.m. on July 31 until 1 a.m. on Aug. 1 for those couples who want to get married right away under the new law.

Judges Lisa Borgen and Michelle Lawson will preside at a group ceremony that will begin after midnight.

All couples with a valid Minnesota marriage license and acceptable photo identification are welcome to participate in the ceremony free of charge.

Those who wish to participate should call Clay County Court Administration at (218) 299-5065 before 4:30 p.m. on July 29 so all can be accommodated.

Cameras will be allowed in the courthouse, but no phones or video cameras will be permitted.

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