Last night at 5:00 p.m., in celebratory fashion on the steps of the Capitol, Governor Dayton signed a bill into law confirming the right to marry for all individuals, regardless of gender. Minnesota is only the 12th state in the country to pass such a law. The passage comes on the heels of a ballot measure designed to change the state's constitution to preclude same-sex marriage, which was defeated last November. Nichols Kaster was one of the first large Twin Cities law firms to issue a statement against the ballot measure that sought to preclude same-sex marriage.
The new law will impact more than 500 laws that previously excluded same-sex couples. One important area that will be affected is employment benefits. Starting on August 1st, same-sex couples legally married in other states will be entitled to the same state benefits that heterosexual couples are entitled to. Same-sex couples wishing to be married can apply for their licenses on August 1st and marry as early as August 6th. They too will be equally protected under Minnesota benefits laws.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases that will impact the rights of same-sex couples. The first addresses the constitutionality of Proposition 8, a ballot measure in California prohibiting marriage except between a man and a woman. The second addresses the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), the federal measure passed, and since condemned, by President Clinton precluding federal laws from recognizing same-sex marriages. If DOMA is overturned, Minnesota marriages of all stripes will enjoy not only state benefits but also federal benefits that are equal to their heterosexual counterparts.