Federal Judge Strikes Down|SD Gay Marriage Ban

     SIOUX FALLS, SD – South Dakota became the 26th state to overturn same-sex marriage bans through the judicial process on Monday, when a federal judge ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the federal constitution.
     Six same-sex couples impacted by South Dakota’s marriage restrictions – many of whom were legally married in other states and want recognition of their unions in South Dakota – sued to overturn the state’s ban, which was approved by voters as a constitutional amendment in 2006.
     Defendants include Governor Dennis Daugaard, Attorney General Marty Jackley, and other officials charged with enforcing South Dakota state laws.
     Judge Karen Schreier’s summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs found that South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban violates the couples’ rights to equal protection and due process.
     Citing previous judgments striking down laws that forbid interracial marriage, Judge Schreier wrote that “the right at stake is not a new right to same-sex marriage as defendants contend. Instead, the substantive due process right is the right to marry, which right is fundamental. South Dakota’s marriage laws significantly interfere with this fundamental right by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.”
     In response to Schreier’s ruling, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley issued a statement reiterating that “it remains the state’s position that the institution of marriage should be defined by the voters of South Dakota and not the federal courts.”
     But Schreier said in her ruling that “plaintiffs need not resort to public opinion to secure their fundamental constitutional rights.”
     The judge also asked why South Dakota is so concerned with “preserving the status quo” and wondered “how long South Dakota same-sex couples should wait to enjoy their fundamental constitutional right to marriage.”
     Enforcement of the summary judgment is stayed pending the appeal of this or similar cases in the 8th Circuit, including Missouri, where a federal judge tossed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage late last year.
     Same-sex marriage has been legal in Iowa – another 8th Circuit state – since 2009.

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