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Federal judge in South Dakota rejects motion to dismiss case challenging gay marriage ban


PIERRE, South Dakota — A federal judge on Friday allowed a lawsuit challenging South Dakota's ban on gay marriage to move forward, rejecting the state's request to dismiss the case.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier did dismiss the plaintiffs' claim that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violated the couple's constitutional right to travel.

Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of six same-sex couples from South Dakota in May. It challenges a 1996 state law passed by the Legislature and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It claims three violations that are guaranteed in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: deprivation of equal protection, due process and right to travel.

Both sides argued their case on the motion to dismiss in Sioux Falls in October before Schreier, and the judge released her opinion late Friday.

Newville said he considered the ruling "fantastic" and said the plaintiffs "wouldn't lose sleep" over the fact that the judge dismissed a portion of the lawsuit.

"Obviously we would've liked the right to travel claim to stay in," he said, "but at its core this case was really about equal protection and due process."

In a statement, Jackley said the ruling does not change the state's view of the case.

"It remains the state's position that the institution of marriage should be defined by the voters of South Dakota, and not by the federal courts," he said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Kansas to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying while the state fights the issue in court. Separately on Wednesday, a federal judge also struck down South Carolina's ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional.

The high court's ruling on Kansas was closely watched for whether justices would change their practice following last week's appellate ruling that upheld gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Those cases now are headed to the high court, meaning the gay marriage issue nationwide could be heard and decided by late June.

In South Dakota, Newville said the state now has 10 days to reply to the plaintiff's motion for summary. After that, he said a timetable for when Schreier could rule is unclear.

All the latest news surrounding the same sex marriage debate can be found here.

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All the latest news surrounding the same sex marriage debate can be found here.

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