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N.D. mayor first in state to join national marriage equality support group

Becomes 400th member to join Mayors for the Freedom to Marry
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
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BISMARCK, N.D. — The mayor of a small town in eastern North Dakota on Wednesday became the first mayor in the state to formally join a nationwide effort support gay marriage.

Karyn Hippen

Karyn Hippen

Thompson Mayor Karyn Hippen, who heads a town of less than 1,000 residents south of Grand Forks, said she’s proud to be the 400th member to join Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, organized by the national advocacy group Freedom to Marry.

The issue hits close to home for Hippen, she said, because her oldest son is gay. When he came out to her, she said “it broke my heart to think that society’s rules might stand in his way when it comes to marriage equality.”

Although 73 percent of North Dakota voters favored a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on a 2004 ballot measure, Hippen said she believes there’s support in the state for the issue.

Hippen’s announcement comes as four gay couples announced Wednesday they were suing Montana over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit makes North Dakota and South Dakota the two remaining states in the country with same-sex marriage bans and no lawsuits challenging them.

State marriage bans have been falling since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

A South Dakota couple is expected to file a lawsuit in the coming months challenging that state’s ban. Joshua Newville, the Minneapolis-based attorney representing the South Dakota couple, has said he’s considering filing suit in North Dakota as well.

Same-sex marriage advocates in North Dakota and South Dakota have said the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes for matters such as housing and employment has discouraged couples from coming forward.

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