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August 04, 2013 10:10 PM

The Husbands Behind the MN Wedding

Minneapolis, MN

Shortly after midnight on August 1st, many eyes were on Minnesota as the first gay couples legally tied the knot in the state. Al Giraud and Jeff Isaacson were the first in Hennepin County to apply for a marriage license, and the second pair to wed at Minneapolis City Hall.

"Al with this ring, I wed you, and pledge to you my unconditional love, now and forever," Isaacson said, while putting a silver wedding band on Giraud's finger.

It is safe to say, thousands of people got to see Giraud and Isaacson stand in front of Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, as he officiated this headline-making same-sex wedding.

"This is my husband, Jeff," Giraud said, after the ceremony. 

"It's going to take a while to get used to saying that. After years of conditioning to say partner. Husband's going to be hard," Isaacson said. 

Exchanging rings out in the open on City Hall's marble steps, it would appear the men are a couple of gay rights activists. In reality, they are just a couple - more comfortable hanging out on their Minneapolis apartment balcony; talking about sports.

"I've become more of a Vikings fan, a Twins fan, a Wild fan. We bicker more about the players and our opinions about them," Giraud said.

"Our friends would hear our discussions back and forth and think we were fighting all the time.  It's like no, we're just talking," Isaacson said.

Isaacson, a Minnesota native, first spoke to Giraud 11 years ago in Florida, while they were both watching a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Football game.

"It was pretty much an instant connection," Isaacson said.

A few days later, they went on their first date.

"And the rest is history," Isaacson said.

The road to present day, however, has not been as easy as it would have been if Giraud and Isaacson were a straight couple. Though they technically had a wedding eight years ago, a committment ceremony in Florida, their Minnesota nuptials are their first legally recognized 'I do's'.

Brady: How important is this actual ceremony?  Why get married?
Al: Well, the marriage, why get married is an easy answer. There's 515 rights in Minnesota that opposite sex couples get, that we haven't had the privilege of. By marriage, we are entitled to those rights. That's important to us.

It may help them and others save tens of thousands of dollars. They can get Social Security payments for their spouse, after he or she dies; they don't have to report the cost of health insurance premiums for their spouse as taxable income; and they can get exemptions from the estate tax and other credits and advantages.

"Families have changed even before gay families were out in the open," Giraud said.

Gay marriage opponents have argued allowing a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman, will impact "traditionally" married individuals. Giraud and Isaacson's sister-in-law said, that is true, but not negative.

"When I was shopping for shoes and things, everybody was, 'oh congratulations and we're so excited for them! I was excited to tell them, my two brothers-in-law are getting married," Michelle said, with a smile, beaming from ear to ear.

Michele, a Sioux Falls native, and her husband, John, had no hesitation when it came time to sign the marriage license for the newlyweds.

"I guess I never really thought of it as a big deal to do that. I think what it's going to do is, it's going to show we've accepted it. What it does is just gives a little bit of an idea that if we can accept it as a heterosexual couple, others can as well. Hopefully that will be the case," John Isaacson said.

These men never expected to be role models, or all of this attention. However, when they were able to stand up in front of their loved ones and get married, they hope they stood up for everyone who still cannot.

"50 years from now, hopefully, we'll be at a point where someone may not even know or may not even care there was a first.  Right now, we probably wouldn't know who the first interracial couple is," Isaacson said.

The future brings many unknowns, including whether or not they want to be dads. Going forward, though, they hope others will look past the term gay wedding, and instead see a very real marriage.

"We have different strengths and different positive qualities we bring to the table and we compliment each other.  Yes, we do balance each other out," Isaacson said.

"Absolutely. You have a Cuban and a Fin. So, you put those two together, it's a beautiful thing," Giraud said.

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