“If not now, then when?”: Same-sex couples speak out about lawsuit

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In 19 years together, Duane Gajewski and Doug Benson have been married in two states and Canada, and had a civil union in Vermont. But in their home state of Minnesota, they’re still not sure where they stand. “We’re hoping just in case one of those marriages is recognized, we’ll be safe,” said Gajewski. The pair is among three couples suing the state of Minnesota for the right to marry. 


The suit, filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court, alleges that Minnesota law violates the families’ right to due process, equal protection, freedom of association and freedom of conscience.


“The joys and benefits of marriage should be available to everyone, and the Minnesota Constitution has greater breadth on these rights than the United States Constitution,” said lawyer Peter J. Nickitas.


Benson, head of the nonprofit group Marry Me Minnesota and himself a plaintiff in the case, said that Minnesota’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed illegally by the legislature.


“It was passed in violation of the single subject rule,” which says that legislation cannot be passed while it is attached to an unrelated bill, he tells the Minnesota Independent.


John Rittman and Tom Trisko, who are also part of the suit, have been together for 40 years.


“When I was growing up, you were called three things if you were gay: You were sick, you were a sinner, and you were a criminal,” said Trisko. “Today, everywhere we go we have to have a big file of documents with us, living wills, powers of attorney. It’s a burden on a daily basis to not have the assumption we are married.”


On filing the lawsuit he said, “I’m getting older. If not now, then when? When I’m dead?”


Lindzi Campbell and Jesse Dykhuis of Duluth have been together for three years and are raising two children.


“We have a responsibility to teach our children to always do the right thing,” said Dykhuis, adding that their aim in joining the suit is to give their family and those of other same-sex couples more stability.


She recalled the scene when Campbell, a Duluth-area firefighter for 13 years, went into early labor with their son Sean, who is a plaintiff in the suit as well. In order for Dykhuis to make medical decisions for Campbell and their newborn, she and Campbell had to go over a mountain of legal documents.


“Between contractions, we were signing legal documents,” said Campbell. “That’s no way to go through labor.”


The couples’ lawyer, Nickitas, predicts his side will win the suit. He cites five states, plus the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal.