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Brian Bakst and Patrick Condon, Published September 02 2013

Minnesota sees rush to gay marriage

ST. PAUL – Same-sex couples received nearly 1 in 3 marriage licenses issued in Minnesota since they were allowed to wed, The Associated Press found in a statewide survey of the first month’s impact of the new gay marriage law.

Since Minnesota became the 12th U.S. state to legalize gay marriage, at least 1,640 same-sex couples applied to be married. Counties aren’t required to report such data to the state, so the AP built a database through calls to all 87 counties.

The rush by same-sex couples to take advantage of the new law likely reflects a pent-up demand by couples together for many years.

“This is the product of people who were living in the legal wilderness for so long suddenly no longer being told their relationships are substandard,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, a sponsor of the bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May.

The AP obtained information from 83 of 87 counties. Among the findings:

- Demand was heaviest in the Twin Cities metro area, with three of every four licenses for gay marriages issued in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

- At least 1,433 licenses were issued to gay couples in the 12 counties where most voters opposed a 2012 attempt to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota’s constitution.

- In 29 of the responding counties, no gay couples sought licenses. All are counties where voters favored the constitutional ban.

- There was at least one application for a gay marriage in 40 counties where the constitutional ban had majority support. Clay County, where Moorhead is the population center, had the most with 31.

The AP’s data aren’t a precise reflection of the number of couples who wed beginning at midnight Aug. 1. Marriage licenses are valid for six months after receipt, and some people who seek one could later decide not to marry. Marriage certificates are issued after nuptials, but those documents don’t list the gender of each party to the marriage.

Officials in Pine, Rock and Todd counties refused requests for the information. St. Louis County also withheld the data, but said in response to an open records request that it would consider turning over details within two weeks.

State officials estimated this spring that 5,000 gay and lesbian couples would get married in the law’s first year; the Census Bureau estimated in 2010 that there were 10,000 gay couples living in Minnesota.

Although Twin Cities-area counties led the way, same-sex marriage applications popped up in every corner of the state.

Minnesota for Marriage, the political group that pushed for the failed constitutional amendment and fought the gay marriage bill, has repeatedly highlighted the urban-rural split on the issue. The group vowed again last week to try to defeat lawmakers who supported gay marriage against the wishes of most in their district.