NEW ULM - The first official same-sex marriage in Brown County history took place Saturday outside the Brown County Courthouse.
The happy New Ulm couple at the center of the event are Megan Freeman and Margaret Barrett, who became Megan and Margaret Freeman. Their ceremony was originally slated to be a small, simple affair, but quickly grew to 40 people at the ceremony and over 200 people at the reception. The increased number came from the sheer number of family members, friends and supportive locals who wanted to show their appreciation of the couple. Similarly, Margaret said she had countless regulars at her job at the Freedom gas station voice their support and promise to show their support at the reception.
Margaret and Megan have been in a relationship for 10 years, starting out a good friends and quickly growing into a committed couple. They said their have considered themselves a married couple for years, leaving a house they bought together and sharing the responsibilities of raising Margaret's three children in their earlier years. The children are now range in age from 20 to 27.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Megan, left, and Margaret Freeman celebrated during their wedding reception Saturday in New Ulm.
Megan joked that they originally wanted something basic, but the children ended up "forcing" them to put on a full ceremony to celebrate their new rights under the legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
The couple said they never sought to be the first same-sex marriage in Brown County, but decided they would not shy away from it if it could help encourage other same sex couples.
"I really don't care to be the center of attention... I'm more of personal person," said Megan, "but, if that's what it takes to help others feel comfortable taking the step, then I don't mind being an example."
A powerful change
Margaret and Megan said they feel making their relationship official by being legally married is important as public recognition of their right to be together. Additionally, they said it is important for legal issues, such as insurance or being allowed to see each other in the hospital.
"I've loved her since the day I met her. I want to be able to show the world that, the same as anybody else," said Margaret.
The couple said it was tough living in Minnesota when state law did not recognize their relationship. They said they were "incredibly disappointed" when Brown County residents voted 66.4 percent, or 9,312 votes, in favor of passing the Marriage Amendment, which would have amended the state constitution to only recognize marriage as between one man and one woman. The percentage was higher than the 47.4 percent of statewide voters favoring the amendment. (In Minnesota, a constitutional amendment requires approval from a majority of all voters casting ballots, including those who leave the question blank.)
"We didn't go get married in another state because we didn't see the point if they don't recognize us here," said Megan.
Despite the voting statistics, the couple said their entire experience in Brown County has only been people being incredibly supportive when they learn about their relationship.
"It could be that there are people out there talking behind our backs. But, we've only experienced surprisingly great responses here," said Margaret.
Margaret said the only negative experience was when she learned, years after the fact, that her children had been bullied about their relationship in school. She said she was impressed her children were so adult in ignoring it.
The couple also mentioned they were initially very nervous they would get a negative response or group picketing their wedding when it became public knowledge. However, they said decided to forge ahead anyway for their family.
Looking to the future, the couple said they do not expect their relationship to change, because they have considered theirselves an official couple for years. They said they are hopeful that acceptance of same-sex couples in society will continue to grow.