North Dakota Only State Without Gay-Marriage Challenge

Friday, 23 May 2014 07:29 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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North Dakota, a bastion of Americana where the state motto is Liberty and Union and the official state beverage is milk, is now the only state not facing a legal challenge for its ban on same-sex marriage.

Six couples filed suit in neighboring South Dakota on Thursday and the day before, four Montanans challenged the ban in Helena, according to The Montana Standard.

The Washington Post reports that North Dakota is the state with the lowest proportion of self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered individuals — 1.7 percent — followed by Montana, Mississippi and Tennessee, which have 2.6 percent, according to the results of a 2012 Gallup poll.

The lead plaintiffs in South Dakota — Jennie Rosenkranz, 72, and 68-year-old Nancy Robrahn – are challenging the state’s gay marriage ban, passed in 2006, as well as the its refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other states, according to USA Today.

Rosenkranz and Robrahn got married April 26 in Minnesota, where they also changed their last name to Rosenbrahn.

"It doesn't matter whether you're first or last," Nancy Rosenbrahn said. "It's about sending a message to the country and the Supreme Court: Look at all these states; you can't ignore this." The women maintain that South Dakota’s constitutional amendment abridges their federal constitutional rights."

Joshua Newville, a Minneapolis lawyer representing the women and their co-plaintiffs, told the Post he’s considering challenging North Dakota’s state law. In 2004, the Roughrider State passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage with 73 percent of the vote, USA Today reported.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage and there are challenges pending in 30 states. The Post reports that since last summer, federal judges have struck down 10 state bans and compelled three other states to recognize some out-of-state marriages.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley pointed out that 52 percent of voters in his state approved a ban on same-sex marriage and that he is charged with defending that position, according to USA Today.

"It is my duty as attorney general, and case law supports, that traditional family values and definitions are determined by state law," Jackley said. "And if there is going to be a change, then that change should come from the voters of South Dakota at the ballot box."

In Montana, where voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004 by a 2-to-1 margin, traditional marriage advocates strongly favor the law being upheld.

"They believe in marriage, they believe in family and they believe that marriage between a man and a woman is what’s best for kids," said Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, which led the effort to pass Montana’s ban.

"Marriage should never be treated as a politically correct social experiment. It's a vital, time-tested institution, and for the sake of our kids, it should be reinforced, not redefined."

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