Three gay couples sued Tuesday to overturn Minnesota's ban on same-sex marriage because they believe state law should treat their relationships the same as heterosexual couples.
The lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court aims to overturn Minnesota's 1997 Defense of Marriage Act. The couples also are seeking a court order for county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The couples face significant legal hurdles, including a 1971 Minnesota Supreme Court decision that found state law did not specifically authorize marriages between same-sex partners - a ruling strengthened by the state Defense of Marriage Act.
But the plaintiffs say their rights under the federal constitution have been violated by their inability to marry.
Thomas Trisko and John Rittman of Minneapolis, together 36 years and both past retirement age, said at a press conference they worry that their lack of a marriage license could complicate medical and financial decisions as they approach old age.
"It's a burden on a daily basis to not have the ordinary assumption of being married that everyone else has," Trisko said. "Especially if there is ever a crisis."
Another couple, Douglas Benson and Duane Gajewski of Robbinsdale, were legally married in Canada in 2005 but said it's not the same as the ability to be married in their home state.
The third couple, Lindzi Campbell and Jesse Dykhuis of Duluth, said the inability to marry has complicated parental rights issues as they raise two small children together. Their 6-month-old son, Sean Campbell, also is a plaintiff in the suit.
"Lindzi is Sean's biological mom but I don't have any legal relationship to him," Dykhuis said.
She said adoption would be an option, but not one the couple feels they should have to take. "I have a piece of paper you'd give a baby sitter that would allow me to make medical decisions in an emergency."
The women also are raising Dykhuis' child from a previous relationship.
The couples' lawyer, Peter Nickitas, said he's confident of success despite legal and political hurdles.
The president of the Minnesota Family Council, a lobby group that's unsuccessfully sought a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, predicted the lawsuit would rally more support for his group's effort.
"This is the latest evidence that marriage is under assault in our legal and political community," Family Council President Tom Prichard said in a news release.
Associated Press reporter Steve Karnowski contributed to this report.
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