SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A lesbian couple plans to exchange vows Saturday in Minnesota, then be the first South Dakota residents to legally challenge the state's ban on same-sex marriage and its refusal to recognize such nuptials.
Nancy Robrahn, 68, and Jennie Rosenkranz, 72, of Rapid City, have been together 27 years. Minneapolis lawyer Joshua Newville said Friday he took the case after the couple was unable to find an attorney in South Dakota.
The South Dakota Legislature passed a law in 1996 banning gay marriage. State voters reiterated the prohibition in 2006 with a constitutional amendment that says only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid. South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Alaska are the only states with a ban on same-sex marriage but no pending court cases challenging its constitutionality, according to Human Rights Campaign, a group advocating for gay rights.
Robrahn and Rosenkranz already were denied a South Dakota marriage license, which gives them standing to legally challenge the state ban, Newville said. After they're married in Minnesota, they plan to ask the Pennington County clerk in Rapid City for a legal name change and, most likely, be denied. That would allow them to file a lawsuit in federal court to challenge a U.S. provision allowing states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, he said.
Two other women from western South Dakota who were married in Connecticut and two men from the eastern part of the state who are getting married soon in Iowa also plan to join the lawsuit, Newville said.
"So Nancy and Jennie and the other couples have decided not only do we want to challenge the state's marriage ban but the state not recognizing marriages from other states," he said.
Newville said he's still weighing which federal courthouse in South Dakota to file the lawsuit. He challenged Attorney General Marty Jackley not to waste the time and money of defending the ban.