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ND responds to challenge on gay marriage ban

FARGO — North Dakota's top leaders have asked a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed last month challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

In a motion filed on Tuesday to dismiss the case, North Dakota's Solicitor General Douglas Bahr argued that the U.S. Constitution leaves it up to individual states to define marriage.

"This case is really about who decides, not who is right in this important policy debate," Bahr wrote in the brief on behalf of Gov. Jack Dalrymple and several other top state officials. "Under the United States Constitution, the people of North Dakota decide the definition of marriage for the State of North Dakota."

Seven same-sex couples challenged the state constitution's ban — approved by voters in 2004 — in early June, making North Dakota the final state to see a challenge to such bans.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act last summer, making married same-sex partners eligible for federal benefits, a string of federal judges has ruled that state prohibitions outlawing gay marriage are unconstitutional. The latest such ruling came Tuesday in Kentucky.

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