Three married lesbian couples on Wednesday filed a legal challenge to North Carolina's ban on gay marriage.

The plaintiff couples, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), are asking a federal judge to force North Carolina to recognize their out-of-state marriages.

One partner in each marriage is suffering from an urgent medical condition.

“Having lived in a loving and committed relationship for decades, our clients should not have to face the end of life (and, for the surviving spouse, the thought of losing their life partner) with the knowledge that their community refuses to recognize the worth and solemnity of their relationship in ways it does for others,” the ACLU said in a statement. “They deserve all the support they can get, not the indignity and grief of knowing their home state treats them as legal strangers.”

A similar case last year led to a federal judge ordering Ohio officials to recognize the out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian couples on death certificates. Last week, the judge said he is prepared to force Ohio to recognize such unions for all purposes.

(Related: Federal judge says he'll order Ohio to recognize gay marriages.)