North Dakota Makes 31: Every State with a Marriage Ban Now Has a Court Challenge

by Charles Joughin

Lawsuit coincides with new poll showing most Americans believe gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry is protected by U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause

WASHINGTON – Today seven same-sex couples in North Dakota filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.  Before today, North Dakota was the last remaining state with a marriage ban and no court case challenging it.

The case was filed by Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville, who recently filed a similar case on behalf of six South Dakota couples.  There are over 70 marriage equality cases working their way through the judicial system across the country.  So far five federal appeals courts are presiding over ten marriage equality cases over the coming weeks and months.  The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage rulings last year, no state marriage ban has survived a court challenge. 

The filing of this case in North Dakota coincides with the release of new poll results by the Washington Post and ABC News which show that 50 percent of Americans believe that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. Additionally, 56 percent of Americans and 77 percent of those under the age of thirty support marriage rights for same-sex couples.  Today’s results are the latest in an ever-expanding trend showing Americans moving inexorably in the direction of supporting equality for same-sex couples.

In addition to 77 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, marriage equality enjoys broad support from 30- to 39-year-olds -- 68 percent. Even 50 percent of those between the ages of 40 and 64 support marriage equality.  During the 2012 presidential election, 84 percent of voters fell into one of these age brackets where there is majority support for marriage equality.   

Among those who say they strongly oppose marriage equality, nearly half say it’s not even “somewhat” important to them. Conversely, only 19 percent of strong marriage equality supporters put such low priority on the issue. In fact, 81 percent of strong supporters say it's at least "somewhat" important. 

Other recent polls show rising support for marriage equality among various demographic groups.  A March 2014 poll shows 61 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners under the age of thirty support marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.  One month earlier, the New York Times and CBS News released polling that puts marriage equality support among Catholics at 62 percent.  More recent polling info is available online here

Today 44 percent of Americans live in a jurisdiction with marriage equality.  Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.  

For more information on the current marriage equality landscape and court cases in America, visit

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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