Judge hears arguments in challenge to South Dakota gay marriage ban

South Dakota plaintiffs Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn, were married in Minnesota in April 2014. They are among six couples seeking to overturn South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban. Benjamin Brayfield, AP

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A lawsuit challenging South Dakota‘s ban on same-sex marriage should be dismissed because a regional appeals court already ruled on the issue eight years ago, a lawyer for the state argued Friday at the first hearing in the case.

South Dakota plaintiffs Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn, were married in Minnesota in April 2014. They are among six couples seeking to overturn South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban. Benjamin Brayfield, AP

South Dakota plaintiffs Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn, were married in Minnesota in April 2014. They are among six couples seeking to overturn South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban.

The complaint, filed in May by six same-sex couples, challenges a 1996 state law and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment that define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier said she would rule later. If she sides with the state, the attorney for the couples has vowed to appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If Schreier allows the case to proceed, lawyers would make further argument, unless another case puts it on hold.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week denied appeals from five states, which legalized gay marriage in about 30 states.

Jeff Hallem, assistant state attorney general, said Schreier is bound by a 2006 8th Circuit ruling that affirmed the state of Nebraska‘s right to ban same-sex marriage, even though other appellate courts have struck down such state bans.

“Your jurisdiction and authority is limited in this circuit,” he said.

But Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville, who represents the six couples, argued that the Nebraska case was different from South Dakota’s because the plaintiffs were seeking recognition in the political process. Five of the six South Dakota couples already have gotten married.

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“The claims brought in this case are for a right to marry and for a right to have one’s marriage recognized,” Newville said.

After the hearing, Newville called the state’s continued defense of the ban a waste of taxpayer money and said “the political rhetoric needs to be set aside.”

Attorney General Marty Jackley’s replied that “the people of South Dakota have the right to define marriage and that position is supported by the 8th Circuit decision.”

Three of the six couples attended the packed hearing, including Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn, of Rapid City, the first couple named in the lawsuit.

“It’s a start. This is what we’ve been waiting for, is today,” Nancy Rosenbrahn said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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