Updated: 08/01/2014 10:56 PM
Created: 08/01/2014 5:06 PM WDIO.com
By: Briggs LeSavage
Friday marked one year of same-sex marriage being legalized in Minnesota, and many Duluth couples say it's reason for celebration.
Theresa Marie Neo married Theresa Bobula, who she had been dating for eight years, at a midnight same-sex wedding celebration held at Duluth's Tycoons Alehouse and Eatery on Aug. 1, 2013. She said one year later, the community support is noticeably different.
"I think it was interesting once Governor Dayton signed this bill and made this a law how the public perception that there was all this negative backlash or thought there would be, but you realize how many people were really supportive," Theresa Marie Neo said.
Keith Haugen and Mike Goerdt were almost married at the Tycoons ceremony last year. They said they too have seen an increase in support.
"It has changed. Opinions have changed a lot. Just in the past year it seems like so much is more acceptable," Goerdt said.
Both couples agree another benefit has been the legal benefits, such as being on each other's health insurance plans. Theresa Marie Neo said it made all the different when she changed jobs this past year.
"The insurance thing, that was a big deal to be added to her insurance during my transition ... not a very sexy benefit but a great one," Theresa Marie Neo said.
Haugen said it came in handy for them when Mike had knee surgery this year.
Nearly 4,000 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in the last year. St. Louis County reports 165 of those licenses were issued in the county.
But Minnesota's political debate surrounding same-sex marriage isn't over yet.
Two Republican incumbents who supported gay marriage in Minnesota have faced challeneges within their party. State Reps. David Fitzsimmons of Albertville and Jennifer Loon of Eden Prairie weren't endorsed at conventions. Some rural Democrats could also see the issue used against them this fall.
Some divorce attorney said they have been busy officiating same-sex divorces since gay marriage was legalized in Minnesota.
"Minnesotans who were married in other places --Canada, Iowa, New York-- but had been separated for years were finally able to get divorced here in Minnesota," Zach Smith of St. Louis' Vox Law, said. "So, on Aug. 1, we had a same-sex divorce boom. It took the rest of the year for us to get the backlogged cleared.
But still, Haugen said this milestone is one for celebration. He and Goerdt were busy setting up for a large party Saturday to celebrate not only their anniversary but Minnesota's as well.
"You don't always feel like you're on the outside of society looking in," Theresa Bubola said.
Minnesota was the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriages. Since then, six other states have followed suit.
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