After marrying in Iowa, Casey and Eric speak out against Minnesota marriage amendment

On September 22, as family members and friends filed into the wedding ceremony of Casey Fritz and Eric Sodemann in Minneapolis, Minnesota, they were greeted with posters painted with an important message that the newlyweds wanted to be sure resonated with their guests: "All love is sweet. Vote NO on the MN Marriage Amendment." The signs, designed by a friend of the couple, reminded guests that the wedding they were celebrating that day would not be legally respected by Minnesota, and that the state would soon be facing a vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would permanently limit the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Casey and Eric have been together for five years. They met shortly after Casey moved from Atlanta to Minneapolis. They quickly began dating on and off and eventually settled down, moved in together and committed their lives to each other.

In August 2011, the couple decided to get married. Although same-sex couples don't have the freedom to marry in Minnesota, they have been able to legally marry in Iowa since 2009. Casey and Eric decided to take advantage of that by crossing the state border into Iowa on Wednesday, September 19 and then hosting a ceremony in front of their friends and family members in Minneapolis the following weekend.

The ceremony in Iowa - officiated by a judge and witnessed by Eric's sister and a mutual friend of the couple - lasted just three minutes, but for Casey, it held momentous significance for his life with Eric.

"My initial thought was that the Iowa ceremony would just be the legal part, and the 'real' part would be our Minneapolis ceremony," Casey said. "But once we got to Iowa and were in the judge's chamber, it really hit: Butterflies. Excitement. Nerves. After the judge handed us the ceremony to read over for our approval, it really hit. Those one and a half typed pages - the pages with the vows - really meant so much. We said 'I do' and instantly became a part of history. Our
marriage is recorded in the court and in state records now."

Casey and Eric hosted the Minneapolis ceremony so that they could celebrate with their friends and family members - 125 people attended - in the place they call home.

"We are very pro-Minnesota," Casey said. "I love Minneapolis like no other city."

For the year before the wedding, Casey and Eric worked to ensure that their celebration would support as many local businesses that support the freedom to marry as possible. They used local farmers, florists, breweries, wineries, and other local businesses, and carefully vetted each one to make sure they were voting no on the marriage amendment.

Casey hopes that on November 6, he sees Minnesotans defeat the discriminatory amendment.

"We would be the first state to stop this runaway train of bans in state constitutions," he said. "It would show people that Minnesota is indeed a great place to live and raise your family. it would say, 'We do not agree with limiting the rights of the minority.'"

Casey also emphasized the fact that marriage is a civil issue, and that state laws granting the freedom to marry protect religious freedom and allow religious institutions to refuse to perform weddings for same-sex couples. He explained that all that he and Eric want is the freedom to marry the person they choose, the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

"We're just looking for normalcy," he said. "We're just regular people. It shouldn't be a big deal when we go and get married. We raise families, we keep on going, and we're just like everybody else."

While he and Eric appreciate the support they've received from their family and friends - and while they understand that for many same-sex couples in the midwest, getting married remains a loaded political statement - Casey says he longs for the day that a man getting married to a man is not news.

"We have been called defiant. We have been called heroes. We have been called trailblazers. We have been called role models," Casey said. "But all we want to be called is 'married.'"

Editors' Note: On November 6, 2012, voters in MaineMarylandMinnesota and Washington will be voting on marriage-related ballot measures. Mainers are being asked to vote YES on Question 1 to proactively pass the freedom to marry at the ballot. Residents in Washington and Maryland are being asked to vote to APPROVE Referendum 74 and to vote FOR Question 6, respectively, to uphold marriage laws passed by their state legislatures in February and March 2012. Minnesotans are being asked to vote NO on a proposed amendment that would constitutionally exclude same-sex couples from marriage. In these next two months before the election, Freedom to Marry will be profiling couples and volunteers for the state campaigns. Read more about the ballot initiatives HERE, and read more stories from couples living in the ballot states HERE

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