Judge rejects Family Council bid in gay marriage lawsuit


A judge has rejected an attempt by the Minnesota Family Council to intervene in a lawsuit challenging state law that bans same-sex marriage. Three same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the state of Minnesota earlier this year arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law in 1997 violates the state Constitution. The Family Council argued that it should be part of the lawsuit, in part, because if DOMA is ruled unconstitutional, it will cost them millions to fight same-sex marriage. The court said the group has no standing to defend DOMA.

“The Council’s alleged injuries would occur solely due to its sincerely-held belief that principles rooted in its interpretations of religious texts are best for the well-being of children and families, and that marriage only between one man and one woman accords with these principles,” wrote Minnesota Fourth District Court Judge Mary S. DuFrense (PDF). “The Court certainly understands that the Council feels strongly about the social issue of same-sex marriage. Strong feelings, however, do not establish a legal interest in a lawsuit.”

The Minnesota Family Council attempted to enter the lawsuit with the help of James Dobson’s Alliance Defense Fund, an evangelical Christian legal group.

Douglas Benson, executive director of Marry Me Minnesota, an organization formed by the couples who are suing the state, said, “We appreciate the judge’s decision to deny the Minnesota Family Council’s motion and believe it ensures that our case will be decided on its merits, without the interference of anti-gay ideologues.”

Attorney for the couples, Peter J. Nickitas, said, “This decision is a great victory for the plaintiffs and their families, marriage equality, and the integrity of the court system.”

The three couples – Duane Gajewski and Doug Benson, Lindzi Campbell and Jesse Dykhuis, John Rittman and Tom Trisko – are suing the state for the right to marry after having their applications for marriage licenses rejected. The couples self-financed the lawsuit and have not received support from LGBT organizations which have said the case faces difficult hurdles. In 1972, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld laws that ban same-sex marriage.

The couples said that if the Minnesota Family Council were allowed to join the lawsuit, it would have subjected them to significant legal costs that could have derailed the case.