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Grand Forks County defers decision on same-sex marriage

Commissioner John Schmisek

Some Grand Forks County employees asked the County Commission to recognize same-sex marriages in the county policy manual recently, but commissioners decided to table the issue at their meeting Tuesday.

“It’s not like I’m for or against anything, I just don’t know how we should address this,” Commissioner John Schmisek said.

The commission decided to wait until some sort of federal or state action was taken.

Currently, the state of North Dakota defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The federal government recognizes same-sex marriage, but only where the government has jurisdiction.

But Grand Forks County State’s Attorney Peter Welte assured commissioners they were within their rights to define marriage however they wanted to.

Jail Administrator Bret Burkholder said he brought the issue before the commission because his staff members asked about redefining “marriage” to include those in same-sex unions.

He said legally married same-sex couples from East Grand Forks who work in Grand Forks could be missing out on some insurance benefits because the state doesn’t recognize gay marriage.

“I do have two employees in a relationship who live in East Grand Forks,” he said. “They are not married, but are they going to get married soon? Tomorrow? I don’t know.”

Minnesota voters decided to recognize same-sex marriages last year.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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