Federal judge puts North Dakota's same-sex marriage case on hold pending Supreme Court ruling

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FARGO, North Dakota — A federal judge put a lawsuit challenging North Dakota's ban on same-sex marriage on hold Tuesday pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Chief Judge Ralph Erickson filed the order staying the case brought in June by seven same-sex couples. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Fargo, challenges both North Dakota's ban on gay marriage and its refusal to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who legally wed in other states.

The Supreme Court announced last week that it will decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry everywhere in America under the Constitution. The justices will take up gay-rights cases that ask them to overturn bans in four states. The cases will be argued in April, and a decision is expected by late June.

Proponents of same-sex marriage have said they expect the court to settle the matter once and for all with a decision that invalidates state provisions that define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Advocates for the bans want the court to let the political process play out, rather than have judges order states to allow same-sex couples to marry. In 2004, 73 percent of North Dakota voters approved the constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriages in the state.

The seven North Dakota couples, whose lawsuit was filed by Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville, claim the ban violates protections found in the U.S. Constitution, including the 14th Amendment's guarantees of equal protection and due process.

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