Marriage rights celebrated: Cathy ten Broeke and Margaret Miles: The impact of being legally married

Cathy ten Broeke (above, left) and Margaret Miles with their son. Courtesy of ten Broeke & Miles.

Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke were the first same-sex couple married in Minnesota after the passage of the 2013 Marriage Amendment. At midnight on August 1, 2013, at Minneapolis City Hall, then-Mayor R.T. Rybak performed the ceremony. It was the first day that all Minnesota couples could legally marry. The Minnesota Women’s Press visited with them about how their life has changed – or not – since then. 

MWP: How has your everyday life been affected by marriage 
 After that night we went back to doing all the things we did before. We got our son Louie ready for kindergarten. We went back to work. We went back to play. But it all felt really different – certainly not our commitment to each other – but the full recognition of us as a couple and a family. Louie was five at the time. It has been an important time for him to have his family recognized as a family just like everybody else’s. At the emotional and spiritual level, it has been very powerful. 
Margaret: It simplified our lives in a way that I am still aware of every single day. Being able to shed a layer of wondering, “how strategically do I need to say that I have a wife and that Louie has two moms?” In the past, for safety and our well being, we were strategic about how we would tell and whether that was safe and was good for Louie. And now, at least in our daily lives, I don’t even think about it. 

MWP: And what has changed in the larger picture? 
 We were enormously fortunate to have family that are extremely supportive and have been for a very long time. But I think even for them … it gave them an extra level of comfort. It almost gave everyone greater permission to talk about it and be proud and share stories and photos of their grandchild and experience the wonder and the love of a family. 
Margaret: Even though we have always been critically aware of LGBTQ rights around the country, it has heightened my awareness of trans rights, which is the next challenge in our work for rights. 
Cathy: Right after the wedding I was able to come to work and get my whole family on my state health insurance policy. A weight was lifted. It’s things like that, that I had not been focusing on. But if you add it up, it makes a big difference. 
Margaret: I called Cathy’s insurer to say that at midnight that night we were married and I was now eligible to partake in her health plan. The person representing the health plan on the other end of the phone said, “And what is your wife’s name?” I thought, “Oh, my gosh. I have a wife!” What a fantastic gift. She really brought it all home for me. It is a joy every time I get to say, “My wife, Cathy.”

MWP: What are your thoughts about then and now and looking ahead? 
 [For] Cathy and I the main thing we feel is gratitude because it wasn’t that it was Cathy and Margaret’s special night. So many people who were already married in other states were automatically married in Minnesota. There were ceremonies at Mall of America and Duluth. We felt privileged to be symbolic of the state’s joy in legalizing marriage. 
Cathy: I remember when R.T. Rybak said those words, “Now with the power FINALLY vested in me …,” thinking about the hundreds of other people in Minnesota right then who were also legally married at that second. You could feel everybody’s love at once. It was overwhelming. 

Not only did we recognize that we were a symbol for hundreds of others, but for all the people who came before us who never did see this day. All of this happened because of them. People who were fighting for these rights for decades. And, of course, the people who organized and did the work. We felt like huge beneficiaries.