South Dakota’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday, making it the latest in a string of marriage bans to fall nationwide.
U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier stayed her ruling until the appeals process plays out, but she found South Dakota had wrongly deprived six same-sex couples of their rights. The couples had sought to marry within the state or have their marriages from other states recognized at home.
“Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry,” Schreier wrote in a 28-page ruling. “South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”
The suit was filed by attorneys from the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 2014, according to a statement from Freedom to Marry, one of the country’s largest advocacy groups for same-sex couples.
South Dakota Atty. Gen. Marty Jackley has already announced his intention to appeal the ruling.
“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,” he said in a statement.
In a Monday afternoon interview with the Los Angeles Times, Jackley said he was one of nearly two dozen attorneys general who asked the U.S. Supreme Court to resolve the issue last year.
The Supreme Court has yet to hear a same-sex marriage case after striking down portions of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, but that ruling opened the door for legal challenges to state bans on same-sex marriages.
It is now legal for same-sex couples to marry in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia.
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