Achieving LGBTQ Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Case Summary & History


Case: Ramsay v. Dalrymple

STATUS: Victory, North Dakota

On June 6, 2014, seven same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in North Dakota. The case challenges North Dakota’s laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states.

The lawsuit argues that South Dakota’s laws barring same-sex couples from marrying and prohibiting the state from respecting the marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Six of the couples are legally married under the laws of other states. The seventh couple is unmarried and wishes to marry in North Dakota.

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.

In addition to NCLR, the couples are represented by attorney Joshua Newville of the Minneapolis law firm Madia Law LLC, who filed the lawsuit on May 22, and Fargo attorney Thomas D. Fiebiger.

On July 22, 2014, the plaintiffs asked the United States District Court to declare that the state’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. The seven couples filed a motion asking the court to rule that North Dakota’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the equal protection and due process guarantees of the United States Constitution.

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in NCLR’s Tennessee marriage case and cases from three other states affirming the freedom to marry in every state and U.S. territory.

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.

© 2020 National Center for Lesbian Rights. All rights reserved. Give us Feedback. Read our Privacy Policy. State Regulations.
NCLR announces new Executive Director.  Please welcome Amani Rupert-Gordon with a year-end gift