​Plaintiffs who challenged ND’s same-sex marriage ban react to Supreme Court’s decision

by Chris Hennen June 30th, 2015 | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

After the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states on Friday, this week U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson declared North Dakota’s gay marriage ban “unconstitutional and invalid” and ruled in favor of the plaintiffs who had challenged the ban.Following his ruling, HPR caught up with some of the plaintiffs in the case, made up of seven couples who banded together to take on the law after similar ones had been struck down all over the country. Their reaction was filled with relief, happiness and acknowledgment that there is more to do.

Plaintiff Ron Ramsay is upset that we will never know how Judge Erickson would’ve ruled in the case prior to the Supreme Court’s decision. Erickson received the case before the Supreme Court did then put his ruling on hold once the Supreme Court took up the bans. Erickson quickly struck down the ban on Monday once the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

“I’m disappointed that the judge was unwilling to rule in the first place and we are presumably going to have to wait for his memoirs to be published at the end of his judicial career to find out what he might have said,” Ramsay said. “I am still inordinately curious how he might have ruled in the first place. But of course putting it off until after the Supreme Court had made its decision basically makes the ruling meaningless.”

It could have been handled differently, however. In the south, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore are telling counties not to issue marriage licenses and signaling they want to fight the Supreme Court ruling. Before Judge Erickson issues his ruling on Monday, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the state would not fight the Supreme Court ruling.

“I didn’t expect North Dakota to behave like some of the southern states,” said Bernie Erickson, another plaintiff. “Texas is carrying on in a pretty bad way. Alabama is once again a national embarrassment. I didn’t expect North Dakota to be that way but I was certainly very pleasantly surprised at how quickly they moved forward with this.”

These plaintiffs risked public backlash for challenging the state’s gay marriage ban, which was amended by a landslide public vote in 2004. However, Janet Jorgensen and Cynthia Phillips, a couple who were part of the lawsuit, say if there was any backlash they didn’t hear about it.

“I am just happy that I was able to put myself out there to help make a change that will benefit a lot of people and possibly be part of history,” Jorgensen said.

All the plaintiffs said they hope the legalization of same-sex marriage will lead to discrimination protections for LGBT residents in the state, which failed in the last legislative session.

“This is a step in the right direction but the reality remains in North Dakota, you can get married on Saturday, have your announcement in the paper on Sunday and walk into work on Monday and be fired from your job and…

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