Press

(Fargo, ND, July 23, 2014)—Late Tuesday, the seven same-sex couples who are challenging North Dakota’s laws banning marriage equality asked a federal court to declare the laws unconstitutional.

In their request, the couples argue that North Dakota’s laws that prohibit marriage equality and the recognition of marriages of same-sex couples married in other states violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution. A hearing has not yet been scheduled for the court to consider the couples’ request.

The couples are Ron Ramsay and Peter Vandervort, Celeste and Amber Carlson Allebach, Brock Dahl and Austin Lang, Michele Harmon and Joy Haarstick, Bernie Erickson and David Hamilton, Matthew Lee Elmore and Beau Thomas Downey, and Stephanie and Siana Bock.They are represented by Minneapolis attorney Joshua Newville of Madia Law LLC, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Fargo attorney Thomas D. Fiebiger.

The motion filed by the couples on Tuesday argues that North Dakota’s marriage equality ban cannot stand in light of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2013 that the federal government’s discrimination against married same-sex couples violates the federal constitutional requirements of equal protection and due process.

Every federal court to consider the issue since last summer’s Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, including federal courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has also ruled that the Utah and Oklahoma marriage bans are unconstitutional.

Said Allebach: “We’re very excited with this filing. We’re optimistic and hope to get a ruling before the birth of our coming child so that our family will be recognized as equal in the eyes of North Dakota law and both of us can be listed as parents on our child’s birth certificate.”

Said Newville: “The state of North Dakota was the last state in which there was a federal challenge to their same-sex marriage ban and the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages, but certainly they are every bit as entitled to marriage equality as every other state in the country. With the filing of this motion today, we are seeking an order from a district judge that declares marriage equality the law of the land in North Dakota.”

Added NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter: “In the past year, more than 20 courts in every region of the country have unanimously agreed that laws banning marriage for same-sex couples violate basic due process and equal protection principles. These courts have had no difficulty concluding that all families are entitled to be treated fairly and with respect under the law, and that state marriage bans serve only to harm and stigmatize loving couples and their children.”

About the Plaintiffs

Brock Dahl and Austin Lang
Brock is a life-long North Dakotan. Brock and Austin met after Austin moved to the state for work. The couple is engaged and do not want to leave the State to get married. Their application for a marriage license was denied by the Cass County Treasurer’s Office on June 4, 2014 because they are a same-sex couple.

Matthew Lee Elmore and Beau Thomas Downey
Matthew and Beau met in 2012. Beau is a missileer in the United States Air Force and although he grew up in Illinois, Beau was born on the Air Force base in Minot. The couple recently married in California and relocated to North Dakota when Beau was coincidently stationed at Minot Air Force Base.

Ron Ramsay and Peter Vandervort
Ron and Peter have been a couple for 29 years, and got married last year in Minnesota. They have lived together in Fargo nearly as long as they’ve been together, where Ron has taught at North Dakota State University for over 40 years and Peter works in local and national theater.

Celeste and Amber Carlson Allebach
Celeste and Amber live in Fargo with their two children and are excited to be expecting a new baby this fall. They have been together for seven years and were married last year in Minnesota. Celeste has lived in North Dakota for most of her life, and is a social worker serving the homeless. Amber owns and operates a daycare.

Bernie Erickson and David Hamilton
Bernie and David have been together for 12 years and were married in Canada nearly eight years ago. They live in Fargo and have four adult children together. David is an opera singer who is a professor of vocal music at Concordia College and the General Director of the Fargo Moorhead Opera, and Bernie sells homes to Fargo area families as a realtor. The couple loves doting on their grandchildren.

Michele “Mickey” Harmon and Joy Haarstick
Mickey and Joy have been together for 13 years and were married in Iowa in 2011. Although they live together in Erhard, Minnesota, Mickey was born and raised in Minot, North Dakota and considers herself a North Dakotan at heart. Mickey is a Captain at the Cass County Sherriff’s Office in Fargo, where she has served for 26 years. She wants the state she has served and protected for decades to respect her marriage, allow her wife to join her health insurance plan, and to ensure that her wife is eligible for retirement and survivorship benefits available to spouses of other North Dakota public servants.

Stephanie and Siana Bock
Stephanie and Siana live together in Oakes. They met three years ago and got married last year in Iowa. They are excited to be adopting their first child when he is born this fall.

Download the motion and learn more about the case.

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