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Clarence F. “Rick” Olson, Published March 21 2014

Letter: Same-sex marriage for ND?

There are 18 U.S. states, with Illinois to become the 18th on June 1, in which same-sex marriages will be allowed and recognized as legal.

As a matter of policy, North Dakota has long forbidden same-sex marriages. Legal same-sex marriages in other states and/or countries are not recognized in North Dakota.

The people of North Dakota 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 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 recently joined a handful of states that allow legal same-sex marriages. Unfortunately, for gay couples who are residents of North Dakota, a legal marriage that they consummate in Minnesota or any place else that recognizes same-sex marriages isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on once they return to North Dakota to reside. The people of North Dakota have raised the bar very high on this issue.

If anyone wants to see this issue raised in North Dakota, they should have the courage of their convictions and go about the task of sponsoring an initiated ballot measure to repeal the constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriages. And then sponsor a second, companion initiated ballot measure to repeal the law that prohibits same-sex marriages from being solemnized. The law is codified in the North Dakota Century Code. Same-sex marriages could not be performed or recognized in North Dakota until such time as both the constitutional prohibition and the statutory prohibition were repealed.

Those who support same-sex marriages will find that Minnesota and North Dakota are on opposite sides of the spectrum on this issue. A solid majority of North Dakotans will not want to repeal the prohibition against same-sex marriage, and would prefer to keep things as they are. They would face a David-and-Goliath-like task at getting either or both the constitutional amendment as well as the law repealed.

I am a born-again Christian. I could not support efforts to legalize same-sex marriages in North Dakota. In no way does this mean that I hate gay people.

I have colleagues at the place of business where I work who are gay, and we get along in the workplace just fine. The subject of their individual sexual preferences doesn’t come up, and I would prefer to keep it that way. Do I treat them any differently on a day-to-day basis? Absolutely not. Do I respect them? Mostly, yes. However, I cannot respect the sinful and unbiblical lifestyle they embrace. Do gay people have rights? Absolutely, they do.

Will there ever be a day when North Dakota joins the alarmingly fast-growing list of same-sex marriage states? Given the ultraconservative nature of North Dakota, if I were a betting man, I would say the odds are still pretty strong against North Dakota joining this list.

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