Appeals court hears suit to overturn same-sex marriage ban

A lawsuit that seeks to overturn Minnesota's law prohibiting same-sex marriage is back.

A panel of three judges at the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in the case of three gay couples who sought marriage licenses in Hennepin County.

A lower court had dismissed the case in March.

The question before the appeals court is whether the challenge to Minnesota's Defense of Marriage Act should get to go to trial, said Peter Nickitas, attorney representing the couples.

"We're putting the issue squarely in front of the branch of government that has the best capability of declaring what's an area of fundamental human rights under the state constitution," Nickitas said. "Our case belongs in court. No question about it."

Minnesota for Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage, issued a press release to say this lawsuit is the reason why Minnesota needs to pass the marriage amendment.

Next year's ballot will include an item asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as between one woman and one man.

Nickitas said the lawsuit may help gay marriage advocates challenge the amendment, if voters approve it.

"If the court of appeals reverses the district court's decision, we'd go back to district court for discovery and ultimately a trial on the merits," Nickitas said. "If we win, and the voters of the state ultimately adopt a referendum, we'll go back to court again to undo that new amendment."

The appeals court has until Jan. 24 to deliver a ruling.

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