South Dakota is one of three states where gay marriage bans have not been challenged in court, but that is about to change. According to a report the Associated Press on Thursday, a newlywed lesbian couple is poised to bring the marriage equality fight to the state of South Dakota.
Jenny and Nancy Rosenbrahn will be the first couple to challenge the state’s same-sex marriage ban originally approved by voters in 2004 and again in 2006. The couple, who were legally married in Minnesota, were prompted to file the lawsuit due to the state’s refusal to grant the women a name change. Both women changed their last name by combining each of their original last names. The combined name is what reads on their Minnesota marriage license, but a courthouse denied them the right to legally change their name since the state does not recognize their marriage.
Minneapolis lawyer Joshua Newville, who will be representing the Rosenbrahns, said on Thursday that he is also considering taking on North Dakota’s ban too. That would leave Montana as the lone state without a challenge on gay marriage bans. But for now, Newville’s foucus will be on South Dakota. He says, “Our focus right now is to get filed in South Dakota and to focus on the case in front of us in the immediate short term.”
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is expected to defend the constitutional ban if and when a lawsuit is filed as a responsibility to defend state laws. Opponents of gay marriage in the state are not surprised a challenge is approaching considering the number of lawsuits that have been filed and overturned throughout the nation, most recently in the states of Idaho and Arkansas.
It was the denial the Rosenbrahns received when they tried to legally change their names that gave the couple the grounds to challenge a provision in federal law that allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where those marriages are legal.