Gay Marriage Supporters Fight Minn. Defense of Marriage Act

Updated: 11/08/2012 7:56 AM By: Mark Albert

Supporters of gay marriage in Minnesota, emboldened by Tuesday's defeat of a ballot measure that would have placed a same-sex marriage ban in the state's constitution, hope a two and a half year-old lawsuit will lead to a court-ordered overturning of the Minnesota Defense of Marriage Act.

"I think we have to try whatever is available to us because if we don't do that, they don't think we're serious," said Doug Benson who, along with his partner Duane Gajewski and two other same-sex couples, is suing Hennepin County over its denial to issue them marriage licenses.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2010 - before the current Legislature that put the marriage amendment on Tuesday's ballot was in office. Read the complaint here.

The lawsuit is set for a landmark hearing in February, where the plaintiffs will argue for summary judgment. The judge assigned to the case could either declare a winner or set the case on track for a bench trial.

"We're just citizens, you know, who came forward and decided that we'd waited long enough and it was time to challenge the government's behavior in denying, what we believe is, our constitutional right to marriage," Benson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Wednesday.

Attorney Pete Nickitas represents the plaintiffs and thinks the vote Tuesday in Minnesota, along with same-sex marriage wins in Maryland, Maine, and Washington state on Election night, will help the case.

"Courts definitely pay attention to the political correlation of forces. They definitely pay attention to elections. And let's be candid: in this state, judges gain and retain their jobs through elections. So they do pay attention to elections," said Nickitas.

When asked if his case got a significant boost from the electoral victories, Nickitas answered, "yes, I do."

John Helmberger, chairman of the group Minnesota for Marriage, which led the unsuccessful campaign to pass the marriage amendment, declined a request from 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS for an on-camera interview Wednesday.

Instead, his group issued a statement, where Helmberger is quoted as saying, "We give thanks to God for His creation of marriage, and we commit ourselves to work and pray that attempts to redefine marriage in our courts and legislature will not succeed."

Read the full statement here.