Same-sex marriage in North Dakota

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Legal status of same-sex unions


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Same-sex marriage in the U.S. state of North Dakota became legal following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, which invalidated state bans on same-sex marriage. Until then the state had restricted marriage to the union of one man and one woman both by statute and in its Constitution.

Restrictions on same-sex unions[edit]

North Dakota voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2004 that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and prohibited the recognition of same-sex relationships as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships.[1] Similar restrictions appear in the state statutes as well.[2]

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015 (see below), a judiciary committee of the North Dakota Legislature began examining the possibility of removing the now invalid statutory and constitutional restrictions on same-sex unions in the state. The committee stated it would not make any recommendations until at least January 2017.[2] On January 10, 2017, the North Dakota Senate rejected Senate Bill 2043, a bill which would have replaced references to "husband and wife" in North Dakota's Civil Code with gender-neutral references to "two people". The bill was rejected by 31 votes to 15, and came after the committee had canvassed the issue though been unable to come to a formal recommendation.[3]


Ramsay v. Dalrymple[edit]

On June 6, 2014, seven same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit against North Dakota officials seeking the right to marry and recognition of marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Five of the couples had married in other states and one couple in Canada. The suit, Ramsay v. Dalrymple, was brought by Minneapolis civil rights attorney Joshua A. Newville, who filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of six same-sex couples in South Dakota on May 22, 2014.[4] Briefing was completed by September 5.[5]

Jorgensen v. Montplaisir[edit]

Lambda Legal filed a similar lawsuit on June 9, 2014, on behalf of two women, residents of Fargo, who had married in Minnesota.[6]

On January 20, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson stayed proceedings in both cases pending the outcome of U.S. Supreme Court review of several same-sex marriage cases.[5][7]

U.S. Supreme Court ruling[edit]

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. Governor Jack Dalrymple issued a one-sentence statement that acknowledged the decision and said the state would comply with it.[8]

On June 29, Judge Erickson lifted the stay he had issued in Jorgensen and declared North Dakota's constitutional and statutory restrictions on access to marriage by same-sex couples and the recognition of such marriages from other jurisdictions invalid.[9]

Marriage statistics[edit]

Number of same-sex marriages in North Dakota's counties as of November 2015

As of November 30, 2015, approximately 60 marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in the state. Of North Dakota's 53 counties, 18 had issued at least one marriage license to a same-sex couple.[10]

As of January 5, 2016, approximately 75 marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in North Dakota since the legalisation of same-sex marriage nationwide on June 26, 2015 by the U.S. Supreme Court. This accounted for over 1.5% of the total number of marriage licenses issued in the state in that time.[2]

Public opinion[edit]

In a poll conducted by Forum Communications and the University of North Dakota's College of Business and Public Administration in October 2014, 50% of North Dakota voters opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage and 37% supported it. Some 9% reported they were neutral and 5% had no opinion. According to an earlier report by the Williams Institute, support for same-sex marriage had been 23% in 2004 and 40% in 2012.[11]

A poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) in 2015 found that 43% of North Dakotans supported same-sex marriage, 44% opposed and 13% didn't know or refused to answer.[12] In 2016, the PRRI found that 46% of North Dakotans supported same-sex marriage, another 46% opposed it and 8% didn't know or refused to answer.[13] In 2017, for the first time ever, the PRRI found majority support for same-sex marriage among North Dakotans. 53% of respondents agreed that same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry, while 35% were opposed and 12% were unsure.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CNN: 2004 Ballot Measures, accessed April 10, 2011
  2. ^ a b c Mike Nowatzki (5 January 2016). "ND issues more than 70 same-sex marriage licenses". Forum News Service.
  3. ^ "N.D. Senate votes down bill to amend state law to reflect legal gay marriage". Inforum. 11 January 2017.
  4. ^ Gunderson, Dan (June 6, 2014). "Lawsuit challenges ND gay marriage ban". MPRnews. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Johnson, Chris (January 20, 2015). "Court halts same-sex marriage lawsuits in North Dakota". Washington Blade. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  6. ^ "Second lawsuit filed challenging North Dakota same-sex marriage ban". Associated Press. June 11, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  7. ^ "Judge puts marriage case on hold pending high court ruling". Washington Times. Associated Press. January 20, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  8. ^ Hageman, John (June 26, 2015). "Same-sex couples can get marriage licenses in Grand Forks County; local supporters celebrate". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  9. ^ "Order to Lift Motion Granting Stay, Granting Motion for Summary Judgment, and Denying Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim". Lambda Legal. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  10. ^ Donovan, Lauren (November 30, 2015). "59 same-sex couples granted marriage licenses in N.D." Jamestown Sun.
  11. ^ Tran, Tu-uyen (October 19, 2014). "Poll: N.D. voters still against same-sex marriage". Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  12. ^ All in all, do you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally?: North Dakota 2015
  13. ^ All in all, do you strongly favor, favor, oppose or strongly oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally?: North Dakota 2016
  14. ^ Public opinion on same-sex marriage by state: North Dakota