Published January 23 2012
Minnesota appellate court revives gay marriage lawsuitMINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday revived a lawsuit challenging the state’s law against gay marriage, ordering a district judge to take another look at the case just months ahead of what’s expected to be a bitter fight over a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
A three-judge panel ruled that a Hennepin County district judge didn’t sufficiently consider claims in the lawsuit that the statute violates the plaintiffs’ due process, equal protection and freedom of association rights, and sent the case back to the district court for review.
The 2010 lawsuit challenged the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1997, known as DOMA. The district judge’s ruling relied heavily on a 1971 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that said gay marriage was prohibited by state statute. But the appellate court said the district judge didn’t properly analyze the couples’ claims that their due process, equal protection and freedom of association rights were violated.
Douglas Benson, one of several plaintiffs, said he was delighted by the ruling. Benson had tried to get a marriage license in Hennepin County to wed his partner of 21 years.
“We look forward to winning our constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry in the state, and we’re going to keep at it for as long as it takes,” Benton said.
Voters will decide in November whether to amend the Minnesota Constitution to require that marriage only be between one man and one woman. Supporters of the amendment jumped on Monday’s ruling as evidence that the amendment was needed.
“The fact that three judges of our court of appeals concluded that there might not be even one reasonable basis for limiting marriage to one man and one woman should be a wake-up call to Minnesotans who believe that our marriage laws are safe,” Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference and vice chairman of the group Minnesota for Marriage, said in a statement.
“The only way for Minnesotans to ensure that an activist judge doesn’t decide to redefine marriage is to put our historic definition of marriage in our state constitution, beyond the reach of state judges and politicians.”
The appellate court upheld the district judge’s ruling that DOMA does not violate the single-subject provision of the Minnesota Constitution; that DOMA does not violate the plaintiffs’ freedom of religion; and that the state of Minnesota is not a proper party to the lawsuit.
The case was considered by Judges Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks, Terri Stone-burner and Renee Worke.