by Jason Kohlmeyer
Gay Marriage Is Now The Law Of The Land In Minnesota.
On Tuesday, May 14, Governor Dayton signed into law Minnesota’s “Freedom to Marry Act,” making Minnesota the 12th state to permit same-sex marriage. Minnesota was previously the first state to reject a constitutional amendment which would have defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. After the defeat of that amendment, lawmakers went to work to enact legislation which would affirmatively allow gay marriages. The newly-passed law will take effect August 1.
What does the new law say?
Minnesota law previously stated explicitly that marriages between persons of the same sex were prohibited. The Freedom to Marry law deletes that language. It also changes the description of marriage as a civil contract between “a man and a woman” to being between “two persons.”
Minnesota law also previously provided that Minnesota would not recognize same-sex marriages which had validly been entered into in other states. For example, a gay couple that had married in Massachusetts would have had a valid marriage in that state but not in Minnesota. This provision has now been deleted.
What does this mean for same-sex couples?
It means several important things. First, there’s the obvious benefit of being able to enter into marriage on an equal footing with heterosexual couples. Second, the new law provides that now, Minnesota law must be construed to treat spouses of the same sex in the same manner as spouses of opposite sexes. That means any laws relating to, for example, health insurance benefits, hospital visitation, and inheritance will apply equally to same-sex spouses. However, keep in mind that federal marriage benefits are still currently restricted to opposite-sex couples under the Defense of Marriage Act—though the Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to that act, and eight federal courts have already found the act to be unconstitutional.
There are other issues that are now on the forefront of same-sex couples minds, such as prenuptial agreements being the most obvious to a divorce lawyer! Also, I would suspect we will see our first gay divorce very, very soon. Prior to this law it was highly unlikely that Minnesota courts would entertain a petition for marital dissolution, even if the marriage was valid in the home state, now I suspect we will see a petition for dissolution very soon.
Is this change here to stay?
One question same-sex couples may have is whether the Minnesota legislature is likely to do a u-turn and repeal the new law in the near future. As of now, however, both declared Republican candidates for the gubernatorial election in 2014 say they will not push to repeal the law, though one, Jeff Johnson, noted he would sign a law favoring traditional marriage if it landed on his desk. However, because it appears that the Minnesota senate will have a majority favoring same-sex marriage until at least 2017, it’s unlikely a repeal would happen before then.
Any comments or questions feel free to post them below!