The state solicitor general said a 1971 ruling banning same-sex marriage is the law of the land.
A nearly 40-year-old Minnesota Supreme Court ruling banning same-sex marriages in the state remains unassailable law for now, state Solicitor General Alan Gilbert said Friday in a hearing seeking dismissal of a Hennepin County District Court lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in May by three same-sex couples, challenges state law requiring marriage to be between a man and a woman. The couples' main claim is that the 1997 Minnesota ban on gay marriage violates their rights to due process, equal protection and freedom of conscience and association under the state Constitution. But Gilbert repeatedly cited the 1971 state Supreme Court ruling through which Minnesota became the first state in the country to outlaw same-sex marriage. In that case, the court found that the state didn't deprive a male couple of equal protection or of liberty or property without due process.
County District Court Judge Mary Steenson DuFresne heard arguments for more than an hour. She said she would take the case under advisement but gave no indication when she would rule.
Although an Iowa lawsuit ushered in legalized same-sex marriage there, the Minnesota case is more controversial. Legal scholars and many gay marriage activists have been concerned that it's too soon to push Minnesota courts for legalization. They say a ruling against same-sex marriage could result in a setback.
Peter Nickitas, who represents the couples, said, "We are here to seek marriage equality." Nickitas argued the 1971 ruling "does not describe the place in which we live today." The couples suffer because they do not have the same rights as other couples, such as filing taxes jointly and accessing health care benefits, Nickitas said.
Gilbert said the 1971 case is "the last word for now until and if the Supreme Court reconsiders."
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747