May 22, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Same-sex marriage lawsuit filed in South Dakota
Nancy Rosenbrahn, Jennie Rosenbrahn, South Dakota, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn of Rapid City, S.D., at their wedding in Minneapolis last month. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Newville)

Six same-sex couples on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit seeking marriage rights in South Dakota.

The lead plaintiffs — Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn of Rapid City who have been together for 27 years — exchanged vows last month in Minnesota during a ceremony that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges officiated.

The Pennington County Register of Deeds in March refused to issue the women a marriage license. Rapid City officials earlier this month also denied their request to change their name after they tied the knot in Minnesota.

Clay Schweitzer and Jeremy Coller of Rapid City last month also tried to apply for a marriage license at the Pennington County Register of Deeds, but were denied. The couple married in Iowa on May 14.

Monica and Lynn Serling-Swank of Sioux Falls entered into a civil union in Connecticut in 2006 that was converted into a marriage four years later after the state’s gay nuptials law took effect.

Barbara and Ashley Wright of Aberdeen and Greg Kniffen and March Church of Sioux Falls married in Minnesota last fall.

Krystal Cosby and Kaitlynn Hoerner of Aberdeen, whose newborn daughter was born last month, tried to apply for a marriage license at the Brown County Register of Deeds earlier on Thursday.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard is among the state and county officials named as defendants in the lawsuit.

“Plaintiffs are residents of South Dakota who experience the same joys and challenges of family life as their heterosexual neighbors, co-workers and other community members who may marry under South Dakota law or whose lawful out-of-state marriages are recognized by South Dakota,” reads the 49-page lawsuit filed in federal court. “Plaintiffs are productive, contributing citizens who support their families and nurture their children, but the state of South Dakota does not afford them the legal protections, dignity and respect provided to other families through access to the status of marriage.”

South Dakota voters in 2006 approved a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Minnesota and Iowa are among the 19 states and D.C. that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

South Dakota is among the last states that currently prohibit nuptials for gays and lesbians in which same-sex couples have filed lawsuits seeking marriage rights since the U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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