Nation’s last unchallenged gay marriage ban brought to court


Richard Parsakian lifts up a large pride banner to celebrate a federal judge ruling Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on May 20. (AP Photo/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Michael Henninger)

The last state with an unchallenged gay marriage ban lost that status on Friday afternoon.

As had been expected, seven couples sued North Dakota on Friday afternoon, making it the last such state to have its ban brought to court, according to Joshua Newville, a Minneapolis-based civil rights attorney who helped file on their behalf.

“Without any legitimate governmental interest, North Dakota has targeted a minority of individuals for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” the suit reads.

The couples in the case represent a range of relationships: old, young, adoptive parents, those asking the state to grant them marriage licenses and those seeking state recognition of out-of-state marriages. The couples hope to have the state ban overturned as unconstitutional.

As of last Thursday, there were 80 pending lawsuits involving the marriage laws of 32 states and Puerto Rico, according to Lambda Legal, a pro-gay marriage legal advocacy organization. The majority of those were in federal court, where no ban has survived a challenge since a key Supreme Court decision last summer, according to the pro-gay marriage Human Rights Campaign.

In that decision, the Supreme Court struck a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, granting full federal recognition to married gay couples. More than a dozen federal court judges have ruled against state marriage bans in some form since then, with most directly citing that decision and the finding that the Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses guarantee gays the right to marry.

Exactly half the nation agrees with that logic. Fifty percent of respondents to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll say the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee extends to the right to marry.

See the current state of gay marriage in all 50 states:

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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