Queer Economics: Marriage Migration to Minnesota…

Back last spring our Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor lead legislature and governor made history and made marriage equally available to gay and straight couples, effective August 1st. Out here on Minnesota’s western frontier the relevant public servants in Pipestone County were on the ball, quickly procuring the needed forms and issuing Minnesota’s first same sex marriage license since Jack Baker and Michael McConnell’s was issued before the gay marriage ban 4 decades ago. That was the beginning of a marriage migration to counties on Minnesota’s western border with the gay marriage (and just about everything else gay) forbidden Dakotas.

Thanks to the good union journalists at the Strib, we now have stats on just how many same sex couples were married in Minnesota in just four short months late last year, here’s the URL:   http://www.startribune.com/newsgraphics/245240961.html . As expected, Hennepin County, Minnesota’s most populous, had the most same sex marriages with 7,087 being recorded in barely 100 days the courthouse was open. Given that two citizens were involved in each of those marriages, that’s 14,000 and a bit gay newlyweds in a county with a population of over 1,100,000. That figures to a same sex marriage rate in those short 5 months of around 1.3%, a pretty impressive stat. But it’s fellow metro core city county Ramsey underachieved, issuing “just” 2,074 licenses in a county of 500,000 odd citizens. So the historic Twin City gay ghetto’s counties with a combined population of around 1,600,000 and change issued same sex marriage licenses to a bit over 18,000 citizens, that figures to around 1.1% of their population.

But in the Red River Valley hard up against the North Dakota border and the Bakken oilfields and Brokeback Mountain beyond, Clay County with but 55,769 citizens issued 309 same sex marriage licenses, a no doubt statistically significant number which matched the Twin Cities with a percentage of around 1.1% of the population… No wonder traffic was so heavy on I-94 in North Dakota and all the motel rooms in Moorhead were booked. The Strib’s fine journalist’s weren’t able to get stats for the county ‘cross from Grand Forks and closest to the Bakken, and those numbers might have been even more impressive- Grand Forks is the first Minnesota border stop headed east on the Empire Builder, and where better to celebrate marriage than flying across the prairie at 80 on one of the world’s greatest passenger trains!

Interstate 94, US 2, and Amtrak we’re the only routes the marriage migration followed to Minnesota. Down the border a bit, Big Stone County’s lovely stone courthouse in scenic Ortonville on the lake is a straight shot down U.S. 12 from Aberdeen and the wheat fields and cattle ranches that stretch clear to the Rockies. Thus no surprise that Big Stone County with but 5,365 citizens issued 35 licenses to same sex couples… If all those licenses had been issued to residents, they’d have issued them to 1.5% of the county’s residents. Even little Pipestone County with it’s 9,385 citizens and historic quartzite stone courthouse and Calumet Inn got in on the migration, issuing 50 marriage licenses to same sex couples… That’s a same sex marriage rate of over 1%, pretty impressive for a county that don’t even have a four lane highway! That said, MN 30 that runs through Pipestone and becomes SD 34 to the west is a know shortcut to Pierre and Rapid City…

Time was when the Dakotas and beyond were liberal bastions where one went to buy fireworks, get married before you’re 21, vote if you’re a woman, and find economic opportunity… Heck, my ancestors took advantage of several of the above. But today, the migration is reversed, and just ’bout every day and night the Dakota’s big business and their pet media whine about the worker shortage. This weekend’s feature story was a sparsely attended “Job Fair” in Mitchell, with employers hawking junk jobs that won’t even qualify you for a mortgage on a double-wide. Get with the program, Dakotas: The Mitchell workers who weren’t at your “Job Fair” were surfing Minnesota’s Job Service website and applying for jobs in Minnesota that pay half again and even twice what the same job in the Dakotas pays. And when they got done there, some of them surfed over to to check the hours Minnesota’s border county courthouses are open, and made motel and resort reservations in Minnesota to celebrate their nuptials.

And what the heck… As long as they’re at it, may as well check out Minnesota real estate too! No wonder Mitchell, South Dakota has 4 times as many vacant jobs as they have unemployed workers…

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