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Updated: Cottage Grove couple wed on inaugural Marriage Equality Day

A champagne toast under blue skies with family in attendance, Chad and Stefan Stein celebrated their marriage Thursday, Aug. 1. (Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner)

After pledging to love and care for each other in “sickness and in health,” Stefan Poulin and Chad Stein were married Thursday afternoon on the front lawn of their Cottage Grove home.

With their family in attendance, the couple was wed Aug. 1, the first day the Minnesota same-sex marriage act became law.

The ceremony was conducted by Rev. Oby Ballinger, pastor of Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul Park.

The newlyweds Stefan and Chad Stein plan to celebrate their marriage with a wedding at the community church this fall.

They met via the Internet 12 years ago and have worn the wedding bands they formally exchanged during the ceremony since Stefan moved here from Canada one year ago.

While marriage will open the door to eventual American citizenship, Stefan can now apply for a green card that will allow him apply for work. He’s now attending Century College as a full-time student.

The couple married as soon as it was legal in order to start the green card process right away. With many applications due to the law change, it could take several months.

After getting approval to work in the United States, Stefan can apply for a Social Security number.

But other rights that come with marriage are now in effect. Stefan had health insurance offered for international students that are out of their country of origin. He now has full health and dental coverage through Chad, a finance director for Traveler’s Insurance.

The two were not allowed to have a joint checking account nor could they secure power of attorney, but now that is also open to them.

If one of them is ill, a hospital can’t bar a spouse.

What marriage brings is a secure future, Chad said.

The couple recently participated in a 90-minute mass phone call, along with other couples intending to marry foreign nationals, with a group of immigration attorneys “to go through the steps” to obtain work permits and citizenship.

Both are men of faith and wanted to be part of an accepting church community that didn’t discriminate or shun gay and lesbian people, but it was a difficult process.

Churches say that everyone is welcome, Chad said, but that’s not the case. One church the couple visited told them they could attend as long as they didn’t acknowledge they are gay.

“That church was willing to take out money, however,” Chad said.

The anti-gay movement is based on religious views, said Chad who was born and raised in the Catholic church.

“But our society is based on equality,” he said.

Dire predictions of what would happen to traditional marriage have not happened, said Stefan, who attended church on his own as a youth. Same sex marriage has been legal in Canada for 10 years, he said.

But several months ago, the couple found a church home after learning about the Community church and Pastor Oby being openly gay.

At a recent ice cream social, Chad and Stefan were in charge of cooking hamburgers, hot dogs and brats.

The couple loves to garden and Stefan was harvesting tomatoes and zucchini last week.

They also belong to a card group and love to attend live theater.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600