Will Marriage Equality Make Minneapolis Irrelevant?

Back in the 70s Minneapolis passed a law banning discrimination against gay folks and became a gay mecca. While gay folks were getting harassed and bashed in the surrounding rural and even suburban areas, Minneapolis was the “Minneapple” with a vibrant gay culture in a what was more a collection of small towns than a city that offered all the benefits of a big city but with small town culture and crime rates. I and thousands of other gay folks moved there, and together we probably saved Minneapolis from the same sad fate that befell most of America’s other big cities.

Then in 1993, Minnesota finally got around to passing the same human rights laws Minneapolis had enjoyed for nearly two decades. The ink was barely dry on the governors pen before gay folks started tiptoeing into the suburbs. Just as well, given that crime and blight were starting to take off in Minneapolis… Those first few cautious tiptoes into the suburbs soon became a stampede escaping Minneapolis crime and hassles, and escalating taxes.

Two decades later, Minnesota finally got around to allowing loving couples to marry, regardless of their gender. The law took effect last night and Minneapolis did it up proud, with a splendid midnight ceremony at City Hall that saw forty some couples married. But up in the little Clay County Courthouse in Moorhead, a city a tenth the size of Minneapolis, a couple judges opened up the courthouse at midnight and did 19 marriages. The courthouse in even smaller Polk County was reportedly open for marryin’ business too, midnight marriages were the order of the day in Duluth, and I suspect that tiny Pipestone County where the first application was filed got in on the act too.

But as the celebrants sleepily exited the safety of Minneapolis City Hall for the mean streets outside, reality sets in. This is a Minneapolis where roving gangs run even the downtown streets at night. This is a Minneapolis that spends millions on bike trails and rental bicycles, only to have bicyclists mugged for their bikes and worse in broad daylight. This is a Minneapolis where the most feared law enforcement presence is not the police, but the housing inspectors who will give you but a day’s notice to trim your trees or whatever violation of the city’s massive and obsolete laws are the offense d’jour. 

Meanwhile in Moorhead, the newlyweds were greeted by a cheering crowd of supporters as they walked out of the courthouse. They were free to walk or cycle the quiet streets home, serenaded by the whistle of the passing trains and the gurgle of the Red River below. A few walked back across that river to North Dakota, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few even walked over to the Amtrak station and caught the westbound Empire Builder back to work in the Bakken oilfields. Same thing in Duluth, and the view from the walkway on the high bridge back to Wisconsin must be incredible at night. 

Belatedly waking today, those newlyweds in Minneapolis, those veterans of the early gay rights movement now approaching retirement age, are probably dreaming of retiring back to their hometowns in rural Minnesota… Heck, we’ve even got a PFLAG chapter here in Marshall and the local coffeehouse and DFL party are gay hangouts! And in Sioux Falls, Fargo, Superior, Winona, and all over those adjoining states that still haven’t “gotten with the program”, newly “married in Minnesota” couples are wondering why they went home… A couple from West Fargo that was married in Moorhead is already moving to Minnesota. So Pipestone, Moorhead, Duluth, Winona, and all the other border towns are about to see a migration to Minnesota for marriage equality. And once they move here to Minnesota, they’ll start to wonder why they don’t work here too, ‘specially if their “enjoying” the Dakota’s “open shop” laws and the low wages it brings. Folks, I think we’re on the verge of an economic boom in Minnesota’s small towns and country!

Me? Still single and have to run into Minneapolis this weekend to trim the trees, hopefully to the satisfaction of Minneapolis’ Housing Inspectors!


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