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Same Sex Marriage soon to be Legal in ND

North Dakota was one of the handful of states still prohibiting same sex marriage. But that changed today, as the US Supreme Court ruled same sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

Josh Boschee is a state representative from Fargo, and the state's first openly gay legislator.  He says for the seven couples in North Dakota that challenged the state's ban on same sex marriage last year, today has been a long time coming.  Personally, Boschee says he's thrilled.

"I"m excited for so many of my friends who now get to experience the same rights and responsibilities as their straight family members and friends. Many of them have been working for this and looking forward to this day, and many have said they never thought they'd see it in their lifetime. So the fact that in eleven short years we went from banning marriage equality in the state to the law of the land being marriage equality is pretty exciting."

Boschee says the next several months before the 2017 legislative session will be spent working toward equal protection for gays and lesbians.

"That gives a year and a half for folks to get to know their legislators, and to talk about why it's important that we have employment and housing protection. You know, now North Dakota's competing with all 50 states for workforce and talent that may not consider North Dakota a place to come because folks can get married, but they may not be able to be protected in their job."

Renee Stromme is Executive Director of the North Dakota Women's Network.  She says she was with a friend when she heard the news this morning...

"I actually was at coffee with somebody who is married in California but not legally here in North Dakota, so it was a great opportunity to be sitting with her when she learned that her marriage is now legal in North Dakota. I think it's a great step forward and an inevitable bend toward civil rights that should be happening.  I don't know when same sex marriages will be able to start happening in North Dakota, but I  know there are a lot of people out there who are probably ready to do it right now.

Stromme says the decision comes exactly two years after the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court.  She says North Dakota still has a long way to go, but today's decision was a large step in the right direction. 

Meanwhile, four federal court cases on the subject of same sex marriage were pending in the federal district court, awaiting today's ruling from the US Supreme Court.

The cases are before Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem explains.

"Earlier this spring he issued an order saying he was not going to rule on those motions until the US Supreme Court issued this opinion, which it now has done. What he wants to do from here is up to him - whether he will want further briefings from either sides, or whether he's ready to issue an order."

Stenehjem says he expects Judge Erickson to move on those four cases quickly.

As to the Supreme Court’s ruling itself…

"I recognize that it's my duty to defend the enactments of the North Dakota Legislature and our state constitution, but I also know this - that the Supreme Court, when it speaks, promulgates the law of the land. And we are dedicated in my office to the rule of the law, and whatever the Supreme Court says is what we are going to abide by."

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