Marriage Equality USA

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State of South Dakota
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Current Status


  • November 2006, South Dakota voters adopted a constitutional amendment in that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and prohibited the recognition of same-sex relationships under any other name, such as civil unions and domestic partnership agreements. Similar restrictions appear in state statutes.
  • No provision of state law addresses discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Shannon County prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; Minnehaha County and the cities of Brookings and Sioux Falls prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • South Dakota's hate crimes law does not address hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Legislation - Pending

HB 1211 -  An Act to repeal the requirement for a marriage license and to provide for a marriage certificate.

Date Introduced: 3 February 2015

Representatives Haugaard, Heinemann (Leslie), Hickey, Kaiser, Klumb, Langer, Marty, May, Qualm, and Verchio and Senators Jensen (Phil), Greenfield (Brock), and Olson


  • 3 February 2015, interesting, the purpose of this bill is to repeal the requirement for a marriage license and to provide for a marriage certificate.
  • 4 February 2015, referred to House Local Government H.J. 285.

Legislation - Enacted


Lawsuits - Pending

Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard

Case #: 15-1186 (8th Circuit); 4:14-cv-04081 (Federal District Court)
Court Level: Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals 
Date Filed: 22 May 2014
Date of Appeal: 26 January 2015


  • 22 May 2014, six South Dakota couples who are either unmarried or who have been legally married in another state filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state constitutional amendment that bans marriage equality.
  • The lead plaintiffs in the case are Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn. Also represented are Jeremy Coller and Clay Schweitzer; Lynn and Monica Serling-Swank; Krystal Cosby and Kaitlyn Hoerner; Barbara and Ashley Wright; and Greg Kniffen and Mark Church.
  • 17 June 2014, the state defendants filed a memo in support of their motion to dismiss this case.
  • 3 July 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment.
  • Hearing set for Friday, 17 October 2014, at 9:00 am in Sioux Falls, SD.
  • 17 October 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Karen E. Schreier rendered no ruling after an hour-long hearing, but said she will "issue a written opinion soon."
  • 14 November 2014, Judge Schreier denied the state's motion to dismiss the marriage case. She granted dismissal on "Right to Travel" claim, but allowed the case to go forward on the 14th Amendment Equal Protection and Due Process claims.
  • 25 November 2014, the defendants filed a motion for judicial notice.
  • 1 December 2014, the plaintiffs filed their Consolidated Reply in support of Plaintiffs' Summary Judgment and Opposition to Defendants' Summary Judgment.
  • 2 December 2014, the plaintiffs filed a Notice of non-opposition to Defendants' motion for judicial notice.
  • 8 December 2014, the defendants filed their Reply in support of their motion for summary judgment. Parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are now fully briefed.
  • 12 January 2015, US District Judge Karen E. Schreier issued an Order Granting the Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and ruling that the SD ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional! Woot! The Order is stayed pending appeal. A Formal Judgement was also issued. UPDATE: Plaintiffs' attorney Josh Newville told Kathleen Perrin of Equality Case Files by phone that he intends to fight the stay. He will have a formal statement soon and we'll update the post when it's released. 
  • 12 January 2015, South Dakota Federal Court Rules in Favor of Freedom to Marry for Same-Sex Couples - NCLR Press Release
  • 26 January 2015, the defendants filed a Notice of Appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • 2 February 2015, the parties filed a Joint Motion to Expedite Appeal.
  • 3 February 2015, In a docket text order, the 8th Circuit:
    - Granted the motion to expedite the South Dakota appeal and set a briefing schedule
    - Indicated its intention to set oral arguments in Rosenbrahn, Jernigan, and Lawson for the week of 11-15 May 2015.
    "CLERK ORDER: [4240177-2] [4240177-3] [4240658] [15-1186] The parties' joint motion to expedite this appeal is granted. The parties shall observe the briefing schedule set forth at paragraph 11 of the motion: Appellant's brief, addendum, and appendix due February 27, 2015; Appellees' brief and addendum due March 19, 2015; Appellant's reply brief due April 2, 2015. It is the court's intention to set the three same-sex marriage cases (No. 14-3779 Lawson v. State of Missouri; No. 15-1022 Jernigan v. McDaniel; and No. 15-1186 Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard) for oral argument during the week of May 11-15, 2015 in Omaha, NE. The parties will be advised of the date and time of the arguments when the May calendar is established."
  • 10 February 2015, the plaintiffs filed an Emergency Motion to lift the stay - filed in federal district court.
  • 12 February 2015, the plaintiffs requested an expedited response deadline for their emergency motion to lift the stay.
  • 13 February 2015, the defendants filed their opposition to the plaintiffs' motion to lift the stay.
  • 2 March 2015, the State filed its Opening Brief with Addendum.
  • 2 March 2015, Federal District Court Judge Karen Schreirer denied the Feb. 10 motion to vacate the stay, saying she no longer has jurisdiction over the case. However, she notes she would deny the request, citing the 8th Circuit's refusal to lift the stay in Lawson (Missouri appeal).
  • 20 March 2015, the plaintiffs filed their brief.
  • 8th Circuit Calendar for May 11-15, 2015: 8th Circuit marriage cases listed on page 3.
  • 29 April 2015, the Court, of its own accord, put the 8th Circuit oral arguments and all further proceedings on hold until SCOTUS rules in the marriage cases.
  • 29 April 2015, Press Release from, Joshua Newville attorney for the South Dakota plaintiffs

    We’ve just been informed that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is canceling the marriage equality arguments scheduled for May 12 in light of yesterday’s arguments at the Supreme Court. Given that the 8th Circuit knew all along that the Supreme Court arguments were scheduled for yesterday, we’re not certain why the Court has proceeded in the manner that it has. I know many of my clients, as well as their family, friends, and supporters, spent money on hotels, flights, etc. I also put many hours into preparing for the argument after the Court denied multiple motions to stay the proceedings pending the Supreme Court arguments.

    This process has been a painful one for my clients, and the Court's action today adds to the roller-coaster they’ve been forced to endure. Despite a South Dakota district court victory nearly five months ago, families across the state still suffer daily harm and humiliation as they are denied basic equal rights and dignity. Despite winning their case and showing that they were deprived a basic fundamental right, they’ve had that victory put on hold—the courts effectively telling them that their rights take a back seat to a very lengthy and convoluted appeals process.

    When the Supreme Court denied Alabama’s request to stay the district court judgment pending appeal, it did so after it granted review to the 6th Circuit cases heard yesterday. In doing so, the Supreme Court made clear that same-sex couples and their children should not have to wait another day to be treated with basic dignity and respect. Thus, while I am optimistic about the outcome of yesterday’s arguments at the Supreme Court, I am beyond troubled by the fact that loving and committed couples in South Dakota and North Dakota are denied equality while similarly situated couples in states like Florida and Alabama have marriage equality pending appeals in those states.

    Similarly, my clients in North Dakota had their case fully briefed and presented to the district court there in early September 2014. For over four months, that court did nothing with the case. Then, in January, the Supreme Court granted review in the 6th Circuit cases and the district court in North Dakota put the case on hold, leaving North Dakota as the only federal marriage case in the country not to even get an opinion.

    My clients and their children are just like many families across the Dakotas. Each day that passes that they are continually treated like second-class citizens is a sad day for the States of North and South Dakota, and a sad day for our country. The time for marriage equality is now. We are optimistic that the Supreme Court’s pending opinion will make that clear.

  • 29 June 2015, the State Defendants' filed a Suggestion of Mootness and MOTION to Vacate.
  • 1 July 2015, the plaintiffs filed their opposition to the defendants' motion suggesting the case is moot and asking to vacate the district court. judgment
  • 3 July 2015, the plaintiffs filed a motion with the 8th Circuit asking the Court to summarily affirm the lower court ruling and to lift the stay.
  • 8 July 2015, the plaintiffs added an affidavit in support of their suggestion to summarily affirm and motion to vacate the district court's stay, bringing attention to the actions of other courts of appeals and the South Dakota attorney general's public statements.
  • 8 July 2015, the defendants filed a Reply in support of their motion to vacate the trial court's judgment.

Lawsuits - Resolved


Ballot Initiatives - Pending


Ballot Initiatives - Passed



  • In April 2013 the Williams Institute reported that support for marriage equality rose in South Dakota from 24% in 2004 to 45% in 2012. Poll Details