Cases & Advocacy

Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard

Status: Closed

Outcome: Victory

Location: South Dakota

On May 22, 2014, six same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit in Sioux Falls seeking the freedom to marry in South Dakota. The case challenged South Dakota’s laws prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying and refusing to respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states. The lawsuit argued that South Dakota’s laws barring same-sex couples from marrying and prohibiting the state from respecting the marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states violated the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

Five of the couples were legally married under the laws of other states, two after being denied marriage licenses in their home state of South Dakota. A sixth couple was unmarried and wished to marry in South Dakota. The couples, who hailed from across South Dakota, included veterans of the United States Army and Navy, nurses, a stay-at-home mom, and a truck driver. Two of the couples were raising children, and one of those couples was expecting another child. A third couple, together for over thirty years, had raised four children and welcomed six grandchildren.

The six couples were: Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn, Jeremy Coller and Clay Schweitzer, Monica and Lynn Serling-Swank, Krystal Cosby and Kaitlynn Hoerner, Barbara and Ashley Wright, Greg Kniffen and Mark Church. In addition to NCLR, the couples were represented by attorney Joshua Newville of the Minneapolis law firm Madia Law LLC, who filed the lawsuit on May 22, and Sioux Falls attorney Debra Voigt of the Burd and Voigt Law Office.

On July 3, 2014, the plaintiffs asked a United States District Court to declare the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional. The six couples filed a motion asking the court to rule that South Dakota’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violated the equal protection and due process guarantees of the United States Constitution.

The District Court heard arguments on October 17, 2014 in Sioux Falls. On January 12, 2015, the U.S. District Court in South Dakota ruled that the state’s marriage ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. The judge stayed her ruling pending appeal.

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in NCLR’s Tennessee marriage case and cases from three other states affirming the freedom to marry in every state and U.S. territory.