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SD Faces First Challenge To Same-Sex Marriage Ban

May 23, 2014, 5:54 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

SD Faces First Challenge To Same-Sex Marriage Ban
Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn


Six South Dakota same-sex couples are taking aim at the state's laws banning gay marriage.

In 2006 South Dakota voters approved a measure that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. But now a federal judge is being asked to rule that South Dakota's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn of Rapid City are the lead couple on the lawsuit.

"We were laughing like, 'Wow, its real; this is happening,' and then we had tears about what it means for everybody. It has a rollercoaster effect," Nancy Rosenbrahn said as she explained her reaction to the lawsuit officially being filed.

The Rosenbrahns were married last month in Minneapolis after being a committed couple for 27 years. But South Dakota will not recognize the marriage so as 68-year-old Nancy and 72-year-old Jennie make end of life plans their assets can't be transferred to the survivor.

PREVIOUS STORY: The Journey Is Far From Over

"Without any legitimate governmental interest South Dakota has targeted a minority of individuals for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Joshua Newille, the attorney for the Rosenbrahns, wrote in the lawsuit.

The Rosenbrahns think the discrimination should end.

"It's 2014 discrimination can't be tolerated in any form. If we are this Christian nation we need to behave that way and be accepting of people," Nancy Rosenbrahn said.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley will take the lead in defending South Dakota's definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. Jackley thinks the state will prevail because this challenge is similar to one made in Nebraska. In 2006 the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Nebraska's traditional definition of marriage.

"So legally the only way to change the pervious federal court decision is by an entire 8th Circuit Court decision reversing or by the United States Supreme Court," Jackley said.

Jackley believes South Dakota has a stronger case than other states because not only has the legislature defined marriage as between a man and a woman but voters also passed a constitutional amendment in 2006.

The Rosenbrahns are ready for the challenge.

"Whether it's going to be in Washington DC with the legislators, or its going to be with the Supreme Court it's going to happen. So, I would hate to see South Dakota spend its money fighting us. We're not going to harm anybody by getting married. Nothing is going to happen. The world isn't going to end," Nancy Rosenbrahn said.

Rosenbrahn is a combined last name. The couple changed it in Minnesota after they got married but the lawsuit says South Dakota will not legally change their last names - including on their driver's licenses - since the marriage is not recognized in this state.

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