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Published July 16, 2013, 09:26 PM

Polk County Government Center to extend July 31 hours for same-sex couples

The Polk County Government Center in Crookston will stay open late July 31, extending its hours to 1 a.m. Aug. 1 to accommodate same-sex couples newly able to marry in Minnesota.

By: Will Beaton, Grand Forks Herald

The Polk County Government Center in Crookston will stay open late July 31, extending its hours to 1 a.m. Aug. 1 to accommodate same-sex couples newly able to marry in Minnesota.

Polk County Director of Property Records Michelle Cote said the center is offering the extended hours “to allow same-sex couples to participate in a midnight ceremony” just after the law takes effect.

The center began accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses July 5, though none may be fully processed until Aug 1. Early applications will have gone through the required five-day waiting period before the end of the month so that couples can marry on Aug. 1 after the ceremony.

Couples interested in participating in the ceremony are asked to contact Cote at the Tax Payer Service Center. So far, two couples, both from North Dakota, have signed up to participate.

Courts cease services

As the same-sex marriage legalization date nears, some Minnesota courts have ceased offering marriage services, though they had offered the services in the past.

County Administrator Chuck Whiting explained on Tuesday that Minnesota courts had been told that they must either provide marriage services to both same-sex and heterosexual couples or to no one at all.

“If Polk County doesn’t offer marriage services, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place to have civil ceremonies done between Clay County and Roseau, aside from churches,” said Commissioner Warren Affeldt at Tuesday’s meeting.

In response to the court’s decision to cease marriage services, Cote went through an online process making her capable of performing marriages in Polk County.

Cote is glad to be able to provide marriage services in Polk County.

“The court administrator is authorized by statute to marry people; she’s not required to,” Cote said. “I like customer service things. I don’t like telling people that we don’t offer a service anymore.”

Though the court of Polk, Pennington, and Red Lake Counties has not officially announced it would not provide marriage services, Cote said that Court Administrator Kathy Narlock has begun referring couples seeking marriage services to Roseau County.

Narlock said the reason the court decided to stop marrying people had nothing to do with the legalization of same-sex marriage, but rather with the time and effort required to help organize wedding ceremonies.

She also said that she still may provide the service if Cote is unavailable at some point in the future.

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