Minnesota’s Supreme Court, in declining to review a Court of Appeals decision that the case has merit, has allowed a suit challenging Minnesota’s statutory ban on gay marriage to proceed to a lower court hearing.
On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court declined to review a case brought by three same-sex couples who claiming the Minnesota Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against them and against the son of one of the pairs.
The plaintiffs, who were all legally married elsewhere, filed suit [PDF] in 2010 in state court after Hennepin County refused to issue them marriage licenses. After a trial court judge dismissed the suit, the couples, who constitute the nonprofit Marry Me Minnesota, appealed. In January, the Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal ruling.
The Supreme Court’s decision not to review the case means the matter may now proceed to trial in Hennepin County. There’s very little chance it will be resolved before next fall’s amendment vote.
Previously, Plaintiffs attempted to challenge the state’s ban but, as noted above, a Hennepin County court dismissed the suit citing a 1971 Minnesota Supreme Court decision called Baker vs. Nelson . The Court of Appeals overturned that dismissal saying, among other important details, that since Baker the Court had found that discrimination based on sexual orientation did not serve sufficient governmental interest. The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, but with the Supreme Court declining to hear the appeal, it means the matter can now go ahead to trial.
Interestingly, Plaintiffs have not received the full backing of LGBT rights groups in this case. While of course rights advocates support the arguments themselves, they fear the case maybe unhelpful as it comes at a time when the state’s GOP has managed to steer voters toward a ballot measure codifying the state’s existing ban on same-sex marriage and writing discrimination into the constitution.
However, the very fact that Plaintiffs require the courts to step in to protect their rights should in the first place be a clear indication that something has gone very wrong in terms of civil liberty. It will be the job of marriage equality proponents then to educate others that this is not about seeking judicial activism but the affirmation of equal protection.
That will be no small task though given that the judicial activism meme has proved incredibly powerful in states like Iowa.