Federal judge allows marriage case to proceed in South Dakota, denying roadblock attempt

On Friday, November 14, United States District Court Judge Karen Schreier denied the state of South Dakota's motion to dismiss a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry, Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard. The ruling means that the case will be allowed to proceed for a full ruling, and it bodes well for the plaintiffs who courageously are standing up for the freedom to marry in South Dakota.

A state's brief on the question of the freedom to marry in South Dakota is due on November 24. 

The judge wrote:

Given the subsequent developments recognized almost uniformly by federal courts following the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, Baker is no longer binding authority. Although Bruning explained that sexual orientation is not a suspect class, it did not address whether marriage is a fundamental right. Thus, those cases do not foreclose relief on plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection claims.

It is difficult to reconcile the Supreme Court’s statement in Windsor that the Constitution protects the moral and sexual choices of homosexual couples with the idea that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage do not present a substantial federal question. Thus, the Sixth Circuit’s reasoning is not as persuasive as the reasoning of the Second, Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits on this issue.

The case was filed in May 2014 by Attorney Joshua Newville of Madia Law LLC and Debra Voigt of Burd and Voigt Law Offices and has since been joined by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. 

Newville said on Friday:

Every reason the State offers to support these discriminatory laws has already been wholly rejected by the vast majority of courts to consider this issue. The Supreme Court’s decision to let stand four recent appellate rulings striking down similar marriage bans also bolsters our case. The days of South Dakota proudly discriminating against these families are numbered.

Since June 2013, more than 50 rulings have been issued in favor of the freedom to marry, with just four rulings - including, most notably, the out-of-step decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit - upholding marriage discrimination.

Read more about marriage litigation.