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With First-Ever Census of Same-Sex Married Couples, Minnesotans See Another Sign of Acceptance

Mini Jain and Anne Robertson often joke that the most radical thing they ever did as a married gay couple was to be ordinary. They are middle class, live in a home in south Minneapolis, and have two children and a dog.

“We always thought we were pretty boring, except for that thing about us,” Jain said.

Still, Jain and Robertson say there’s something profound about the sheer banality of being able to tick the “married” box on government forms, including the latest census.

“Now we’re officially boring,” Jain said with a laugh.

The 2020 census was the first decennial census to include a category for same-sex spouses. According to data released this week by the US Census Bureau, more than 10,000 Minnesota households reported having a same-sex married couple. More than 80% of those households are in the Twin Cities metro area, and an additional 10% said they live in other areas of the state.

Even with the addition of same-sex marriage, the share of Minnesota households with a married couple continues to decline — a trend for decades. Same-sex couples make up just 0.9% of married couple households statewide.

Susan Brower, a Minnesota state demographer, said having accurate data on same-sex couples is an important part of understanding how families are organized, but comprehensive data hasn’t been available until now.

Before the Census Bureau added the box for same-sex married couples, people’s answers varied — and were sometimes suppressed when the agency cleaned up the data for analysis.

In the 1990 census, if two people of the same sex in a household said they were married, the Census Bureau amended that by changing the sex of one of them, Brower said. In 2010, if a household listed it as a same-sex married couple, that status was changed to “single” in the editing process because same-sex marriages were not legal in all 50 states until 2015.

“Even if people had unions and considered themselves married at the time, if it was not a legal union recognized by the federal government, that is when the procedures for editing have been done,” Brower said, adding that changes to census forms were usually late. societal changes.

Richard Fahel was “dismayed but not surprised” to hear this story.

“It’s helpful to report this number accurately so people know we’re here, part of our communities,” Fahel said. He married her husband, Jeff Haug, in Massachusetts – the first state to legalize same-sex marriage – in 2004, more than 20 years after they met and a decade after exchanging vows at home in front of friends and family.

“We already knew we were married,” Fahel said. “It just took a long time for society and the government to recognize that too.”

He has already seen the positive effects of being able to officially register his marriage in other places, such as a doctor’s office. On the medical forms he fills out during appointments for Haug, who was diagnosed with ALS eight years ago, Fahel proudly marks “married,” just as he did in the 2020 census — and doesn’t care if he’s allowed to be there in an emergency.

Prior to marriage equality, Fahel would sometimes cross out options listed under “marital status” and write “marital relationship.”

“But most of the time I would tick ‘single’ and swear quietly about it,” he said. “I’m less concerned about what anyone else does with this data, but I’m just glad I can be honest with myself when I check that box.”

Bradley Schmeling accepted.

“Part of the whole point of coming out is saying out loud ‘I’m here, I exist, this life is real and there’s nothing shameful about it’ – that it doesn’t have to be hidden,” he said. “So in a way, checking a box on a government form is a way of saying, ‘Like everyone else, this marriage is real and should be recognized and counted.'”

Schmeling and her husband, Darin Easler, are both Lutheran ministers. After attending the signing ceremony for the 2013 bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota, the two went home, poured wine and opened an anthem to choose whatever music they wanted for their ceremony wedding the following year.

Their ceremony drew 400 guests to the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, where Schmeling serves as senior pastor. They did not exchange new rings that day, but rather blessed the same rings they had worn for years. They had swapped them in 2007 on the day they announced their relationship with the bishop of the church in Atlanta, where they lived at the time. Schmeling was asked to resign; he refused.

Making their marriage legal inside a church and in front of family and friends (who all attended a classic church potluck for the reception) provided a joyful contrast.

“Receiving this affirmation from a community of people who love you is really important for your relationship to be strong and stable,” he said.

Schmeling hopes more same-sex couples can also feel that level of security, though he wonders if there are still some who don’t yet feel comfortable ticking a “married” box or being married. be open with their relationship.

“On the one hand, it seems like having this box on the census is the end of the fight for equality,” he said. “But it should be a reminder that we still have work to do.”

The Star Tribune continues to report on the 10th anniversary of Minnesota’s same-sex marriage law and we’re looking for gay couples willing to be interviewed. If you are interested or want to know more before volunteering, please complete the form below.

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