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Cali Owings, Published July 30 2013

18 same-sex couples to be married shortly after midnight Thursday at Clay courthouse

MOORHEAD – The doors of the Clay County Courthouse will open at 11:30 Wednesday for 18 couples who want to be married shortly after midnight Thursday — the first day same-sex couples can legally wed in Minnesota.

Several area same-sex couples will be among the first to get married under the new law during the group ceremony. Judges Michelle Lawson and Lisa Borgen will preside.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill into law in May that made civil marriage in Minnesota gender-neutral while providing protections for religious groups. Following his approval, several counties, including Clay County, began accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples.

Minnesota’s new marriage law is also drawing couples from North Dakota. Some are considering moving to the state where their new marriages will be recognized.

Bob Stone and his partner Jan Titus, who live in Fargo, will participate in the midnight ceremony. Stone said they’ll stay in North Dakota though same-sex marriage is banned by constitutional amendment.

Stone and Titus, who have been together for three years, were married last summer at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Fargo.

Thursday’s ceremony will “make it legitimate in the eyes of at least 13 states,” Stone said.

Effective Thursday, Minnesota and Rhode Island will join California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington in allowing same-sex marriage.

“Hopefully North Dakota will come along soon,” Stone said.

F-M Pride is hosting a reception for all of the couples tonight at Usher’s House on First Avenue in Moorhead before the ceremony. The “community-wide marriage equality celebration” begins at 8:30 p.m. and is open to all who want to “celebrate this historic event.”

If you go

What: F-M Pride Marriage Equality Celebration

When: 8:30 p.m. today

Where: Usher’s House, 700 1st Ave. N., Moorhead

If you go

What: Clay County midnight marriage ceremony

When: 11:30 p.m. July 31 until 1 a.m. Aug. 1

Where: Clay County Courthouse

Info: Space is limited for couples, their guests and media. Phones and audio and video recording devices are not permitted in the courthouse. Only still photography will be allowed. All attendees must go through security. If you are unable to get into the courthouse, several supporters of Minnesota’s law will also gather outside the courthouse to celebrate.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599