Earlier this month, seven couples took a legal step that many people in North Dakota have been awaiting for some time. They filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. This makes North Dakota the final one of the 31 states with a constitutional amendment stating that marriage is only between heterosexuals to have it challenged in court.
The suit argues that the amendment violates the U.S. Constitution because it denies due process and equal protection to same-sex couples. The suit also contends that it violates the “right to travel” section of the 14th Amendment by not recognizing same-sex marriages of people who are legally married. Same sex marriage is currently legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C.
The amendment dates back to 2004, when it was approved by nearly three-quarters of voters. The North Dakota Family Alliance, which campaigned for the amendment, says it plans to fight to keep it in by filing a friend-of-the-court brief in cooperation with the state’s attorney general.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, however, pointed out that while it is the responsibility of the attorney general to defend the state against lawsuits, “Ultimately, only the Supreme Court can determine whether North Dakota’s enactment is constitutional or not.” Throughout the country, judges have nullified other state’s constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
If North Dakota’s high court decides that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is indeed unconstitutional, same-sex couples in our state will have a right that many have been seeking for a long time. Some will also for the first time seek legal advice on issues like adoption, paternity and prenuptial agreements. Some, like many married couples both gay and straight, sadly may also one day find themselves facing divorce and the legal issues that go along with that.
Source: USA Today, “Lawsuit challenges North Dakota gay marriage ban” Michael Winter, Jun. 06, 2014