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VIDEO: Same-sex couples gather in Crookston for historic midnight ceremony

Three local same-sex couples share a midnight kiss with their newlywed spouses as Judge Ann Rasmussen finalizes their legal unions just after midnight in Crookston, Minn., on Aug. 1. As of today, same-sex marriage is legally recognized in Minnesota, where couples showed up in counties all across the state to exchange vows just as the law took effect. (Jenna Watson/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 4
Charlotte Ontko, 11, a close family friend of the newlywed Mary and Katie Gonzalez, signs a framed photo of them that they will keep as a momento of the reception held at Riverside Park thursday. photo by Jenna Watson/Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
Katie Gonzalez (left) and Mary Gonzalez (right) enjoy a reception at Riverside Park Thursday, August 1 in celebration of their midnight marriage ceremony the night before in Crookston, Minn. Katie and Mary were among the first three same-sex couples to be married in Polk County as the law went into effect. photo by Jenna Watson/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

The sun did not discriminate Thursday afternoon as it warmed the outdoor wedding reception of Mary Gonzalez and Katie Craig, the first same-sex couple to be married in Polk County.

The couple gathered with family and friends at Grand Forks' Riverside Park following an early morning ceremony at the Polk County Government Center in Crookston in Minnesota, where same-sex marriage became legal at the stroke of midnight Thursday Aug. 1.

Gonzalez was still enjoying the memory of the ceremony and the spontaneous trip to a diner for an extra early breakfast with about 10 of their friends and family members. "That was unexpected, but it was fun!"

Charlotte Ontko, 11, a family friend of Gonzalez, sat in the grass describing the ceremony. She said she loved to see Gonzalez look so happy at the wedding. "Everybody was having fun and taking pictures," she said.

Gonzalez, a California native, and Craig, a Warren, Minn., native, were one of three same-sex couples to exchange vows in Polk County as the state's historic same-sex marriage law took effect. All the couples are North Dakota residents, Gonzalez and Craig from Grand Forks, Scarlet Krysztof and Rachel Faulkner also from Grand Forks, and Stephanie Ashley and Olivia Sauberan from Minot. Ashley is stationed at Minot Air Force Base.

Long-awaited 'yes'

Judge Anne Rasmusson, a Crookston resident who serves in Minnesota's Ninth Judicial District in Mahnomen, conducted the group ceremony in the county building's board room as friends and families of the six newlywed women watched with tear-filled eyes.

"Mary and Katherine, have you considered the importance of the step that you are about to take?" Rasmusson asked.

"Yes!" the women replied. They had been waiting for the right to marry for several years.

As the ceremony concluded, the couples signed the final paperwork, and their marriages became official, filling the county building's lobby with cheers.

"Thanks everybody for coming," Gonzalez told friends and family members, many of whom traveled from Wisconsin and California to attend. "It means the world to us."

"Being able to take part in history is pretty awesome," said Craig before the ceremony. "We're excited to be the first couple to get married in Polk County, and be one of the first married couples in Minnesota."

Unexpected joy

"The wedding was a lot of fun. I'm glad that it happened while I was here," said Kim Gonzalez, Mary Gonzalez's mother.

When Kim Gonzalez booked her flight from California to Grand Forks two months ago to spend the summer with her daughter, Mary Gonzalez and Craig had no immediate plans to get married as Minnesota's same-sex marriage law had not yet passed.

She joked that she would have worn a nicer outfit to the wedding had she thought she needed to pack one for her trip here. "It just kind of happened like 'Let's just do it.'"

She has received an overwhelming number of positive reactions from Grand Forks residents about her daughter's marriage to another woman, giving her hope that people from the area may not be as intolerant of same-sex couples as she might have feared.

"Having the wedding here... everyone's just so nice and so accepting. Not necessarily North Dakota, but everybody that Mary knows and everybody that Katie knows," Kim said. "But I can't imagine that it's just that tiny group of people."

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