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Seven couples challenge North Dakota same-sex marriage ban

Seven couples filed a federal lawsuit this afternoon, challenging the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Dakota.

North Dakota is now the last state in the country to be sued by couples seeking the right to marry in their home state.

The seven couples in the lawsuit live all across the region.

Four live in Fargo, one lives in Minot and one lives in Oakes.

The last couple actually lives in Minnesota - but one partner works in the Cass County Sheriff's Office, and because their marriage isn't recognized by the state, they are denied health insurance and retirement benefits.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Fargo Friday.

It challenges both North Dakota's consitutional ban on gay marriage, and its refusal to recognize marriages of same-sex couples who legally wed in other states.

The lawsuit was filed by Minneapolis Attorney Josh Newville.

He says he's not sure how long the case will play out but his clients are in it for the long haul. 

Minneapolis Attorney Josh Newville said, "The reason I agreed to represent them is because I believe that North Dakota is a state like any other in the country that's full of loving, committed same-sex couples many of whom are married or want to be married and they deserve the same recognition under the law that different sex couples do" 

Newville is also representing six South Dakota couples ina similar case.

Gay couples can already wed in 19 states and the district of columbia.

In 2004, the voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was passed by 73 percent of voters.

The North Dakota Family Alliance released a statement saying it will work within the legal process to defend the state's definition of marriage.