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Attorney General Marty Jackley

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South Dakota’s Definition of Marriage Remains in Effect after U.S. Supreme Court Rulings
PIERRE, S.D - Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that South Dakota’s definition of marriage, which is limited to a man and a woman, is still valid.

“After today’s U.S Supreme Court decisions, South Dakota constitution and legislative enactments defining marriage to be between a man and a woman remain in effect as a matter of law,” said Jackley.

In November 2006, South Dakota voters approved a constitutional amendment making marriage valid only between a man and a woman. South Dakota voters approved this amendment by a vote of 172,242 to 160,173. South Dakota Constitution Article XXI, Section 9 defines only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in South Dakota. In addition, SDCL 25-1-1 defines marriage as a personal relation between man and a woman.

In the first decision the United States Supreme Court handed down this morning, the Court found that private parties lack standing to defend the constitutionality of a California law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. When California state officials refused to defend a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, private parties sought to enforce its constitutional amendment. The Court held that only state officials and not private parties have standing in federal court to defend the constitutionality of the law. Based upon South Dakota voters’ decision to define marriage as between a man and a woman in South Dakota, the State of South Dakota joined numerous states as Amicus Curie or Friend of the Court, defending the constitutionality of California’s definition of marriage.

In the second decision, the U.S Supreme Court recognized the each state’s responsibility for defining and regulating marriage. When United States Attorney General Eric Holder refused to defend or enforce a federal statute that defined marriage as excluding same sex partners, the House of Representatives stepped in to defend the federal statute. As to those states that define marriage to include same sex couples, the federal statute violated basic due process and equal protection principles. The federal statute did not recognize or accept 12 states’ and the District of Columbia’s definitions of marriage. The decision did not resolve challenges to state marriage definitions affecting same sex marriages. The opinion and its holding are confined to only same sex marriages made lawful under state law.