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Clarence F. “Rick” Olson, Fargo, Published October 12 2013

Letter: AG can’t just wave a wand

Lenny Tweeden’s letter to the editor, “AG should issue marriage order” (Forum, Oct. 3) needs a response.

North Dakota’s attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem, cannot wave a magic wand and make North Dakota’s constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriages go away. Even if he wanted to, Stenehjem cannot legally do it. The people of North Dakota have enshrined into the state constitution that legal marriage can only consist of “the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.” So says Article XI, Section 28.

The people have spoken on this issue. What part of “no” doesn’t Tweeden and his partner understand? The constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriage in North Dakota was placed into the constitution during the November 2004 general election. Voters overwhelmingly ratified an amendment to the constitution, which had been proposed by the Legislature during the 2003 session. The ballot measure passed by almost 74 percent of the vote. It received 223,572 yes votes (73.23 percent) to 81,716 no votes (26.77 percent).

Minnesota this past year joined a handful of states that allow legal same-sex marriages to take place. Tweeden and his partner went over to Moorhead at the first opportunity to make their union legal. Unfortunately, their legal marriage in Minnesota isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on because North Dakota does not legally recognize same-sex marriages, and they have chosen to remain legal residents of North Dakota. The people of North Dakota have raised the bar very high on this issue.

If Tweeden and his partner feel put upon by the laws of our state, then they are free to move to another state in which their marriage would be legally recognized.

If he wants to see this issue raised in North Dakota, he should go about the task of sponsoring an initiated ballot measure to repeal the constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriages in the state. And then sponsor a second, companion initiated ballot measure to repeal the state law that also prohibits same-sex marriages from being solemnized in North Dakota. The law is codified in the North Dakota Century Code.

I’m afraid he will find out that Minnesota and North Dakota are on opposite sides of the spectrum. He will find that a vast majority of North Dakotans will not want to repeal the prohibition against same-sex marriage. He would face a David and Goliath-like task at getting either or both the state constitutional amendment as well as the state law repealed.


Olson is a regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary and opinion pages. Email rickolson@cableone.net