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Many Minnesotans praise court’s same-sex marriage ruling

Published 7:08am Thursday, June 27, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — A U.S. Supreme Court decision Wednesday extending federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples was met with jubilation in Minnesota, barely six weeks after the state moved to legalize gay marriage.

“I’m overjoyed,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, a gay state lawmaker who co-sponsored the Minnesota law that takes effect Aug. 1. He called the high court ruling a “great story of our democracy.”

“Personally, I’m now recognized as married in the eyes of my own federal government to my husband, which means that the freedoms in our Constitution as citizens of this country are guaranteed to us as well,” Dibble said. “But also that so many people now can just get on with their business of taking care of each other, working hard, building a life together, because they can access those federal rights, benefits and responsibilities.”

Supporters of same-sex marriage say that 1, 138 federal laws that had offered rights or protections only to straight couples will now cover legally married gay couples.

That includes things like the right to file federal taxes jointly, improved access to health care coverage for spouses of federal employees, improved immigration rights, access to a spouse’s Social Security benefits and a broad range of tax benefits, said Ann Kaner-Roth, executive director of Project 515. The group has worked to get same-sex couples equal rights and takes its name from 515 Minnesota state laws that it said protected only heterosexual couples.

Richard Carlbom, the political strategist who led the campaign to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota, plans to marry his partner of six years, Justin, in December. Asked how the couple will eventually benefit from Wednesday’s ruling, Carlbom noted he currently pays federal tax on health care coverage he provides his partner because it is classified as income — a tax he said is not imposed on a legally married heterosexual couple. The high court ruling means that will eventually go away.

But he said the ruling is about more than benefits.

“It’s really about the federal government saying we are equal citizens under the law,” Carlbom said.

Rep. Steve Simon, a Democrat from Hopkins who supported same-sex marriage, said the ruling further legitimizes the impending marriages of Minnesota gay couples.

“The federal government must recognize any marriage in a state as long as a state calls that a marriage,” Simon said, calling the strides for Minnesota gay couples this year as “huge.” In November, the state’s voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in what served as the springboard for the legalization push in the spring.

“They went overnight from not recognized to recognized as married by the federal government,” Simon said.

A second Supreme Court decision Wednesday cleared the way for California to resume same-sex marriage, but stopped short of any broad statement for or against gay marriage. Minnesota for Marriage, a lead group in the unsuccessful fight against gay marriage, issued a statement saying the rulings collectively affirmed “no constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

“The bottom line is, despite two bad Supreme Court rulings, the Court did not find a constitutional right to redefine marriage, and citizens in the states can still engage in the marriage debate,” group chairman John Helmberger said in the statement.

Most Minnesota politicians swiftly released statements praising the high court ruling on federal benefits. One exception was GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, who made an early name for herself as a state legislator as a gay marriage opponent. Bachmann’s statement said the court’s decision was counter to thousands of years of human history defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted,” Bachmann said.

Carlbom saw it differently.

“I think that it’s just an incredible day for America, and in terms of bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice, this is exactly one of those moments where you can see it bending,” Carlbom said.

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