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​Celebrating community and a marriage equality milestone

News | April 18th, 2024

Alicia Underlee Nelson

alicia@hpr1.com

A midnight wedding ceremony at the Clay County Courthouse in Moorhead on August 1, 2013 was more than a romantic gesture. Eighteen couples made history on that day by exchanging vows in the very first moments after same-sex marriage became legal in Minnesota. The Red River Rainbow Seniors (RRRS) will gather to celebrate this historic milestone, share stories, and inspire the next generation during a Celebration of Community at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead on April 27 from 5-8 p.m.

The event is centered around an exhibit titled, “At Last: 10th Anniversary of Marriage Equality in Minnesota.” The exhibit highlights 34 people who participated in that midnight marriage ceremony, both as couples and as officiants.

The RRRS has interviewed over 100 LGBTQ individuals through its oral history committee. The committee partnered with the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County to create the exhibit, which launched on the 10th anniversary of the legalization of same sex marriage in Minnesota last year. It will remain on display through August 20.

The Celebration of Community event will feature food, music, and a chance to reflect upon the societal changes that have occurred since the legalization of same-sex marriage. Tickets are $12 at the door. The event is open to all.

“Join us, along with our allies, friends, families, and community, to celebrate the progress seen in our lifetimes towards equality,” said RRRS event committee member Cindy Phillips. “There are challenges that we will need to face, but this celebration is also important and well deserved.”

RRRS members say that documenting the life experiences of LGBTQ individuals is just as important now as it was in previous decades. That’s especially true of elders, who have seen societal, legislative and legal changes in their lifetimes.

“As youths, we had to hide for safety reasons,” said RRRS co-chair Marg Nelson. “Now our community is being attacked and there are legislators across the country that are putting out amendments against trans individuals and LGBTQ people. This is an opportunity for us to feature the people who had the opportunity to get married 10 years ago. We are just like anybody else. It’s a way for us to be seen.”

In addition to preserving the perspectives of elders, the group is also lifting up the next generation by providing grants to local GSAs (also known as gay–straight alliances or gender-sexuality alliances) on campuses across the region. Nelson says that they plan to present these grants in person, because that one-on-one connection is powerful for both parties.

“We got a letter from a young man who said he didn’t have many role models that were older,” Nelson said. “But we were role models.”

Serving as an example to the next generation is an important part of the Red River Rainbow Seniors’ mission. Nelson says it’s vital for young people to meet role models who share their identity and to see members of the LGBTQ community thriving in all stages of life.

“Hang in there,” Nelson urged young people who are struggling to see beyond their current situation. “There is life after high school and middle school.”

Red River Rainbow Seniors is a non-profit organization based in the Pride Collective and Community Center at 1105 First Ave. S. in Fargo. In addition to its oral history projects, the group also provides advocacy, education, support and community events for LGBTQ individuals ages 50+. Learn more at rainbowseniorsoralhistory.org/ and facebook.com/RRRainbowSeniors/.

IF YOU GO:

Celebration of Community

Saturday, April 27

5-8 p.m.

Hjemkomst Center

202 1st Ave. N. in Moorhead

Tickets $12 at the door

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