U.S. Supreme Court

United States District Court

District of South Dakota 

 

 

Rosenbrahn, et al.,

 

Plaintiffs,      

 

  •  

    Daugaard, et al.,

     

    Defendants.

    Case Type: Civil Rights / § 1983
    Case No. 14-CV-4081-KES

     

     

     

     

    PLAINTIFFS’ EMERGENCY MOTION TO VACATE STAY OF JUDGMENT

     

    EMERGENCY MOTION

    On January 12, 2014, the Court entered judgment, declaring:

    SDCL 25-1-1, SDCL 25-1-38, Article 21 § 9 of the South Dakota Constitution, and any other provision of state law that precludes people from marrying or refuses to recognize an existing marriage, solely because the individuals are of the same gender are unconstitutional because they violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard, No. 4:14-CV-04081-KES, 2015 WL 144567, at *11 (D.S.D. Jan. 12, 2015). The Court further ordered that, “defendants are enjoined from enforcing those laws or otherwise declining to issue a marriage license solely because the applicants are of the same gender.” Id.

    The Court, over Plaintiffs’ objections, also ordered that, “the effects of [the] judgment will be stayed until the judgment is final.” Id. While Plaintiffs believe they have already satisfied their obligations pursuant to Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and could make the above-captioned motion at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, they seek this Court’s reconsideration in light of recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In its Order granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court did not consider that on December 20, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the State of Florida’s request for a stay of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of Florida’s exclusion of same-sex couples in marriage while the litigation and appeals process continue. See Armstrong v. Brenner, 135 S. Ct. 890 (2014).

    Nor did this Court, while discussing whether to stay judgment, take into account that on October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in cases from the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits, each of which had ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ constitutional freedom to marry, dissolving all previously-entered stays in those cases and allowing same-sex couples to begin marrying in those states. See Herbert v. Kitchen, 135 S. Ct. 265 (2014); Smith v. Bishop, 135 S. Ct. 271 (2014); Rainey v. Bostic, 135 S. Ct. 286 (2014). Since its denial of certiorari in those cases, and prior to this Court entering (and staying) judgment, the Supreme Court denied stays in every case in which a lower court struck down a state marriage ban; in each of those cases, the Supreme Court allowed lower court orders requiring states to issues marriage license to same-sex couples to take effect while appeals in those cases proceed. See: Wilson v. Condon, No. 14A533, 2014 WL 6474220 (U.S. Nov. 20, 2014) (South Carolina); Moser v. Marie, No. 14A503, 2014 WL 5847590 (U.S. Nov. 12, 2014) (Kansas); Otter v. Latta, No. 14A373, 2014 WL 5094190 (U.S. Oct. 10, 2014) (Idaho); Parnell v. Hamby, No. 14A413, 2014 WL 531181 (U.S. Oct. 17, 2014) (Alaska).

    Four days after this Court entered and stayed judgment in Plaintiffs’ favor, the Supreme Court granted petitions for writ of certiorari in four cases that raise the very same issues presented in this case—whether a State must allow same-sex couples to marry and whether a State must recognize such marriages performed in other jurisdictions. See DeBoer v. Synder, No. 14-571, 2015 WL 213650, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Bourke v. Beshear, No. 14-574, 2015 WL 213651, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, 2015 WL 213646, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015); Tanco v. Haslam, No. 14-562, 2015 WL 213648, at *1 (U.S. Jan. 16, 2015).

    Most significantly, yesterday—February 9, 2015—the Supreme Court denied a request by the State of Alabama to stay the judgment of the Untied States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, which had, on January 23, 2015, held that Alabama’s exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment. Strange v. Searcy, No. 14A840, 2015 WL 505563, at *1 (U.S. Feb. 9, 2015).

    Since October 2014, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and consistently denied motions to stay lower court decisions that struck down state bans on marriage equality as unconstitutional. Strange, 2015 WL 505563, at *1. The Supreme Court’s order in Strange indicates that the grant of review in DeBoer, et al, has not changed the Court’s conclusions that such stays are not necessary. To the extent that this Court’s entry of stay was premised on the fact that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and/or the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet ruled on the constitutionality of state marriage equality bans, the Supreme Court’s post-certiorari refusal to grant a stay in the Alabama case demonstrates that the continued stay of the judgment in this matter is no longer appropriate.

    When a party seeks a stay pending appeal, the court “must balance the competing claims of injury and must consider the effect on each party of the granting or withholding of the requested relief.” Amoco Prod. Co. v. Vill of Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 542 (1987). Here, while Defendants have not shown that South Dakota would suffer any harm in the absence of a stay, the challenged laws are continuing to cause serious and irreparable harm to Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples and their children every day that the bans remain in effect. In addition, the stay on judgment is causing continued insecurity, vulnerability, and stigma. The purpose of marriage is, in large part, to provide security and protection in the face of anticipated and unanticipated hardships and crises—e.g., in the face of death, aging, illness, accidents, incapacity, and the vicissitudes of life. Indeed, Plaintiffs in this case have dealt with such issues during the pendency of this litigation. This harm is not speculative, but immediate and real.

    This Court has recognized that the denial of marriage to Plaintiffs and other loving and committed same-sex couples is the deprivation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Rosenbrahn, 2015 WL 144567, at *10. Under well-settled law, any deprivation of constitutional rights, “for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976).

    Defendants have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits and have offered no evidence that they will suffer any harm—much less irreparable harm—if this Court’s judgment is in effect while the appeal is pending. Defendants have identified no meaningful burden to the State of South Dakota or its agencies or political subdivisions that would arise if the State is required to issue marriage license to same-sex couples and recognize such marriages performed in other jurisdictions while the appeal is pending in this matter.

    Defendants cannot argue that enjoining the enforcement of a state law is in itself a form of irreparable injury to the State. That is equally true of any case in which a court permanently enjoins a state law because the law is unconstitutional. Such arguments, taken to their conclusion, would mean that a permanent injunction can never be granted in a constitutional challenge without being stayed pending appeal. That manifestly is not the law. See Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433 (2009) (“A stay is not a matter of right.”)

    It cannot be argued that in the absence of a stay, South Dakota’s issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples would result in uncertainty concerning the validity of those marriages. There will be no uncertainty, as the law is clear that marriages validly entered into pursuant to a district court’s order while appeal is pending remain valid regardless of the appeals’ outcome. See Caspar v. Snyder, No. 14-CV-11499, __ F. Supp. 3d __, 2015 WL 224741, *27; Evans v. Utah, No. 2:14-CV-55-DAK, 2014 WL 2048343, at *17 (D. Utah May 19, 2014).

    While this Court (in its Order dated January 12, 2015) discussed the factors traditionally weighed to determine whether a stay on judgment should entered, it did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court’s most recent action in Strange. With that backdrop, it is fundamentally unfair and logically inconsistent that same-sex couples in Florida and Alabama (among other states) can marry and have their marriages recognized while the Supreme Court considers the very issues decided by this Court, but families in South Dakota must continue to suffer irreparable harm and constitutional violation. Thus, this Court’s conclusion that the public interest weighs in favor of a stay on judgment must be reconsidered and the stay on judgment immediately vacated. “It is always in the public interest to prevent the violation of a party’s constitutional rights.” G&V Lounge, Inc. v. Mich. Liquor Control Comm’n, 23 F.3d 1071, 1079 (6th Cir. 1994).

    The Plaintiffs and same-sex couples across South Dakota have waited years—in many cases, decades—to be treated equally in accordance with the Constitution. They should not have to one more day. Accordingly, Plaintiffs respectfully request action on this Motion by this Court within one week.

    Dated: February 10, 2015.

    Madia Law LLC


    [signed by hand]
    Joshua A. Newville
    Admitted pro hac vice
    345 Union Plaza
    333 Washington Avenue North
    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
    Phone: (612) 349-2743
    Fax: (612) 235-3357
    joshuanewville@madialaw.com

    Burd and Voigt Law Office

    /s/Debra Voigt                  .
    Debra Voigt
    SD Bar No. 2473
    601 S. Cliff Ave, Suite A
    Sioux Falls, SD 57103
    Phone: (605) 332-4351
    Fax: (605) 334-6844
    debra@burdandvoigt.com

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    (Sioux Falls, SD)– On January 12, 2015, on behalf of six same-sex couples, Madia Law won a historic civil rights victory in a constitutional challenge to South Dakota’s ban on marriage equality. From the New York Times and the Associated Press:

    SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A federal judge on Monday declared South Dakota’s [bans on marriage equality] unconstitutional, but marriage licenses won’t be immediately issued because the ruling was put on hold pending a potential appeal.

    U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier sided in favor of the six couples who filed the lawsuit in May in Sioux Falls. The lawsuit challenges a 1996 state law and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment that ban gay marriage.

    “Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry,” Schreier wrote. “South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification.”

    Attorney General Marty Jackley on Monday said the state will appeal the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a conservative-leaning federal appeals court that in 2006 affirmed Nebraska’s right to ban same-sex marriages.

    “It remains the state’s position that the institution of marriage should be defined by the voters of South Dakota and not the federal courts,” Jackley said.

    He said he’s obligated by law to defend both the state constitution and state statutes.

    Two other states — Arkansas and Missouri — already have appealed similar federal district court rulings to the 8th Circuit. This court is generally considered more conservative than others, said Adam Romero, senior counsel in the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. However, Romero warned, judges “from all ideological perspectives” have tended to agree that state marriage bans are unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

    “While it is impossible to predict what the court will ultimately do, given the large number of judges who have struck down same-sex marriage bans, we can assume that the 8th Circuit will give the marriage bans in this circuit a very, very close scrutiny,” Romero said.

    The U.S. Supreme Court again is considering whether to hear a gay marriage case, and more appeals court rulings — especially if they conflict — could increase the likelihood the justices will do so.

    In November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati became the first appellate court to recently uphold state bans on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee are asking the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. Four other appeals courts — based in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia — have ruled in favor of gay and lesbian couples. Arguments over bans in three Southern states were held last week before a New Orleans-based appellate court.

    Romero said that the more cases that are pending at the 8th Circuit will only increase the pressure on that court to issue its ruling. But the court could put the cases on hold if the Supreme Court decides to take on the issue.

    Presently, 36 states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry, nearly twice as many as just three months ago.

    The South Dakota couples’ attorney, Josh Newville, said Monday’s developments represent the last opportunity for the state’s “elected officials to be on the right side of history” by not appealing Schreier’s decision.

    “I would say that Attorney General Jackley needs to consider very seriously the amount of money that he’s pouring into this lawsuit on behalf of the state to keep a discriminatory law in place,” Newville said.

    Five of the couples have already married in either Iowa, Connecticut or Minnesota. Nancy Rosenbrahn, of Rapid City, married her longtime partner in April in Minneapolis.

    “On one hand, this is like the best present ever,” Rosenbrahn said of the decision Monday. “On the other hand, you go back and you say ‘Well, yeah, it should be a yes,’ because we are no different than anybody else. There is no reason to say we can’t get married. There is no valid reason to do that anymore.”

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    Madia Law 

    CONTACT:
    Attorney Joshua Newville
    office: 612.349.2743
    cell: 651.210.7135
    joshuanewville@madialaw.com

    –FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—

    (Sioux Falls, SD, Nov. 14, 2014)—South Dakota’s marriage equality lawsuit is moving forward after United States Judge Karen Schreier rejected the State’s motion for the case to be dismissed on Friday.

    The Court heard arguments in Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard on October 17 in Sioux Falls. The Attorney General’s Office argued that a 2006 8th Circuit Court of Appeals case required dismissal. Plaintiffs’ attorney Joshua Newville argued that case isn’t on point and that the controlling decision is United States v. Windsor, the 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

    In a 28-page opinion, issued Friday afternoon, Judge Schreier agreed with the plaintiffs, writing, “Given the subsequent developments recognized almost uniformly by federal courts following the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, Baker is no longer binding authority. Although Bruning explained that sexual orientation is not a suspect class, it did not address whether marriage is a fundamental right. Thus, those cases do not foreclose relief on plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection claims.”

    The Court will now consider the legitimacy of the marriage bans. Judge Schreier ordered state officials to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment within ten days. The State must explain why its refusal to wed same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples do not violate U.S. Constitution guarantees of due process and equal protection.

    “Every reason the State offers to support these discriminatory laws has already been wholly rejected by the vast majority of courts to consider this issue,” said Newville. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let stand four recent appellate rulings striking down similar marriage bans also bolsters our case. The days of South Dakota proudly discriminating against these families are numbered,” he added.

    The plaintiffs filed their motion for summary judgment in early July. Debra Voigt, one of the lawyers for the couples, said, “We are all very happy this case is moving forward and are encouraged by the Court’s ruling today. We are optimistic that this is one step closer to marriage equality here in South Dakota.”

    The six plaintiff families are from across the state and include veterans, nurses, a stay-at-home mom, a truck driver, a couple who’s been together 30 years, and couples with children and grandchildren. “The law requires South Dakota to treat these families equally and with same dignity and respect it gives families with different-sex couples,” said Newville.

    Plaintiff Clay Schweitzer of Rapid City said, “My husband Jeremy [Coller] and I were both born and raised in South Dakota. We love it here. South Dakota is where we met, were we have built our lives together, and where Jeremy accepted my proposal in the Black Hills. We look forward to the day when South Dakota treats our family equally to all others.”

    While the Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ right-to-travel claim, Newville explained: “We believe that South Dakota’s discriminatory marriage scheme violates the law in a number of ways, including an unconstitutional infringement on the right to relocate within the United States. While the Court disagreed with our reasoning on that claim, the Judge did agree with the over 50 other courts that ultimately ruled in favor of marriage equality in the last 15 months that these couples’ have presented valid equal protection and due process claims.”

    The couples are represented by four attorneys:

    • Lead counsel Joshua Newville of the Minneapolis firm Madia Law LLC. Newville is the civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit on May 22, 2014. He also represents seven families in a similar challenge to North Dakota’s marriage equality bans, which he filed on June 6, 2014.
    • South Dakota attorney Debra Voigt of Burd and Voigt Law Offices in Sioux Falls. Voigt is an active member of her community and has practiced family law in South Dakota for nearly 20 years.
    • National Center for Lesbian Rights attorneys Shannon Minter and Christopher Stoll. NCLR, a LGBT advocacy organization based in San Francisco, has been instrumental in the national fight for marriage equality, including the 10th Circuit Idaho case that was the first in the country after Windsor to have marriage equality upheld by a federal appellate court. Minter and Stoll are also working with Newville on the North Dakota case.

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    In August 2012, I wrote about the problem with the City of Minneapolis dispensing with civilian review of police officers’ conduct. That year, the Minneapolis Police officers’ unionVelma Korbel and Susan Segal collectively took a nail gun to the coffin of the now-defunct Civilian Review Authority.

     

    Over two years later, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges penned an open letter acknowledging that Minneapolis has some bad police officers and that there is a strained relationship between Minneapolis police and parts of the community. Mayor Hodges also reiterated her commitment to civilian review and police officer accountability in general. In doing so, she mentioned the need for the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department to change, which I wholeheartedly agree with. (For example, this summer,  I spoke with watchdog.org about the militarization of police and the effect it can have on the culture of a police department.)

    In the end, Mayor Hodges proposed several things to establish such a culture changes, including the use of body cameras by Minneapolis Police officers. Use of body cameras by those  we give a badge and a gun and entrust to protect us should be celebrated as advancements in both technology and accountability. Body cameras protect the majority of police officers, who have hard jobs but carry out their duties with integrity and professionalism. They also protect civilians who, quite frankly, are too often victims of illegal conduct by bad cops.

    Unfortunately, some police officers don’t like the use of technology that helps ensure such accountability. Last week, in what amounts to transparent retaliation against Mayor Hodges for her extremely reasonable position, officers of the Minneapolis Police Department sent a photo to KSTP News of Mayor Hodges posing with a North Minneapolis get-out-the-vote volunteer. The officers declared that Mayor Hodges, who was pointing at the volunteer, was flashing a “known gang sign.” The nation collectively exhaled. 

    #Pointergate–as the scandal has come to be known–barely begins to highlight the significant barrier police unions have become to police officer accountability. The true power of these unions is demonstrated by their consistent and often successful defense of some truly bad cops. Officers like the Metro Gang Strike ForceSherry Appledorn & Joe WillBeating of Derryl JenkinsShooting Death of Dominic Felder deserve to be pushed out of the police department before their behavior and attitudes result in such significant civil rights violations, not protected by their peers out of blind allegiance. Ultimately, more so than #pointergate, the unions’ successful lobbying to gut the Civilian Review Authority demonstrates why it is a real barrier to the public’s effort to hold bad police officers accountable.

    Litigation cannot be the only check on bad cops’ conduct. Madia Law fully supports Mayor Hodges’ position on officer accountability and police-community relations. It is time to reverse the trend. Transparency is better for both police officers and citizens.

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    Today, the United States Supreme Court denied to review opinions issued by three appellate courts that declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The practical effect of the order denying review is that, after the dust settles, 11 additional states will have marriage equality — bringing the total to 30 within the next few months.

    For couples living in states without marriage equality, today’s announcement is bittersweet. While the Supreme Court’s inaction is a positive in that it expands the number of states where discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation is not legal, it means more waiting for those who live in other states.

    KMSP-TV

    Many of the states without marriage equality also lack legislation that protects gay people from discrimination (for example, in housing and employment). Similarly, many of those states do not provide make it a hate crime to violently target a gay person for no other reason than that person’s sexuality.

    Until the Supreme Court (or, alternatively, every appellate court in the country) declares marriage equality to be the law of the land, litigation will continue.

    Madia Law is proud to represent thirteen same-sex couples in historic challenges to marriage equality bans in both South Dakota and North Dakota. For those couples, today’s events are a source of optimism about the eventual outcome of their cases. Madia Law will continue to fight on behalf of them and all gay and lesbians who are denied their rights and equal protection under the laws.

    KFGO: Attorney Joshua Newville on Supreme Court’s Decision on Same Sex Marriage

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    Madia Law filed a motion for summary judgment Tuesday in the historic lawsuit challenging North Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage. From the Guardian Newspaper:

    A lawyer filed a motion late Tuesday calling on a judge to rule on the legality of gay marriage in North Dakota, the last US state to face a challenge to its constitutional ban on same-sex unions.

    Attorney Joshua Newville, representing seven couples in the state, filed the motion for dismissal in the US district court in Fargo in a move that has been successfully used in other states wrestling with same-sex marriage bans. Other bans are currently being challenged in states including Colorado and Georgia.

    Newville’s original suit, filed in June, argues that the ban subjects same-sex couples seeking to marry to “an irreparable denial of their constitutional rights” and the state “will incur little to no burden in allowing same-sex couples to marry and in recognizing the lawful marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions on the same terms as different-sex couples”.

    Earlier this month North Dakota solicitor general Doug Bahr called for Newville’s case to be dismissed arguing that states have the right to define and regulate marriage.

    Newville, a lawyer with the Minneapolis-based firm Madia Law, said: “We are seeking an order from a district judge that declares marriage equality the law of the land in North Dakota.”

    North Dakota is the final state to face a challenge to a same-sex marriage ban. The legal case comes after a series of local victories for marriage equality proponents across the US that is putting pressure on the US supreme court to rule once more on gay marriage.

    “We all agree that North Dakota denies loving, committed same-sex couples recognition of their marriages. That is not in dispute,” said Newville. “This is a constitutional issue and North Dakota is in violation of the constitution by refusing to marry couples and to recognise marriages from other states and jurisdictions.”

    Celeste Carlson Allebach who, with her wife Amber, is one of the plaintiffs in the case said: “We’re very excited with this filing. We’re optimistic and hope to get a ruling before the birth of our coming child so that our family will be recognized as equal under the eyes of North Dakota law and both of us can be listed as parents on our child’s birth certificate.”

    Last June the highest US court ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits and effectively ended a ban on gay marriage in California that had been overturned by a lower court. In the wake of those decisions courts in more than a dozen states have invalidated bans on same-sex marriage while others have partially invalidated their rules to recognise marriages from outside the state.

    Carl Tobias, Williams professor of law at the University of Richmond said it now looked inevitable that the supreme court would have to revisit same-sex marriage.

    “Since the supreme court decision we have had a stream of rulings that have favoured plaintiffs and I think we are likely to see the same in North Dakota,” said Tobias.

    In August the 6th circuit court of appeals will hear arguments from gay marriage cases in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. The 5th circuit court of appeals, one of the most conservative courts representing Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, is also expected to start hearing same-sex marriage cases soon, although no date has been set.

    “In all likelihood one of the courts could vote against same-sex marriage,” said Tobias. He said he had been surprised that so far decisions had been “so uniform and so fast. The decisions are building on one another and finding earlier arguments persuasive.”

    But he said a vote supporting a gay marriage ban was likely and that such a vote would likely lead to another supreme court hearing.

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    On June 6, 2014, Attorney Joshua Newville of Madia Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven same-sex couples in North Dakota. The lawsuit, Ramsay, et al. v. Dalrymple, et al., 14-CV-57, was filed in United States District Court in Fargo, North Dakota.

    Like Madia Law’s filing in South Dakota two weeks ago, the lawsuit against North Dakota officials is the first lawsuit in the state to challenge the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The lawsuit alleges the state’s ban on marrying same-sex couples and its refusal to recognize the marriages of other jurisdictions deprives gay and lesbians from their constitutionally-protected rights of equal protection, due process, and right to travel.

    Advocacy group Freedom to Marry is tracking the progress of marriage equality litigation across the country.

     KFYRTV.COM – Bismarck, ND – News, Weather, Sports

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    On May 22, 2014, on behalf of twelve South Dakota residents, Madia Law Attorney Joshua Newville filed a federal lawsuit in United States District Court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of South Dakota’s statutory and constitutional bans on marriage equality. 

    The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Plaintiffs Jennie and Nancy Rosenbrahn, Jeremy Coller and Clay Schweitzer, Lynn and Monica Serling-Swank, Krystal Cosby and Kaitlynn Hoerner, Barbara and Ashley Wright, and Greg Kniffen and Mark Church. Defendants include Governor Dennis Daugaard, Attorney General Marty Jackley, Secretary of Health Doneen Hollingsworth, Secretary of Public Safety Trevor Jones, Pennington County Register of Deeds Donna Mayer, and Brown County Register of Deeds Carol Sherman. United States District Court Judge Karen Schreier is overseeing the matter in the Southern Division of the District of South Dakota. The Court file number is 14-4081.  The allegations contained in the Complaint are below: [click to continue…]

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    It’s been a busy week for employment law and civil rights.  The impact of the past week’s Supreme Court decisions on these two areas of law cannot be understated.  The Voting Rights Act was gutted, killing protections put in place to prevent discrimination at the ballot box.  The Civil Rights Act was substantially weakened, stripping minority employees across the country from access to Title VII remedies. And although the news for same-sex couples was brighter, the Court’s narrow decisions on that front leave much work to be done in the struggle for equality.

    Wednesday, the Supreme Court released its decisions in United States v. Windsor (the “DOMA” case) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (the “Prop 8″ case).  These two cases each had the potential to become landmark civil rights precedent, with monumental significance for gay and lesbian Americans; they were heralded by pundits as the most important civil rights cases of our generation.

    Indeed, the decision in Windsor will go down as one of the most significant decisions in Supreme Court history; it struck at the heart of DOMA and declared gay and lesbians deserving of equal protection under the law.  The Court’s decision in Perry, on the other hand, will soon be brushed into the dusty corners of irrelevance; in that case, a group of five strange bedfellow Justices entirely ducked the question of whether same-sex couples are entitled to marriage equality.  Thus, the struggle for gay civil rights marches on – and there is a lot of ground to cover. [click to continue…]

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    Today, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), which is considered by many to be the most important civil rights law to have ever been authored by Congress. In short: the Supreme Court gutted our country’s chief mechanism for preventing the South from engaging in racially discriminatory voting practices.

    Minnesota Civil Rights Attorneys

    From Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder:

    Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today. The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter registration and turnout as if that were the whole story. See supra, at 18–19. Without even identifying a standard of review, the Court dismissively brushes off arguments based on “data from the record,” and declines to enter the “debat[e about] what [the] record shows.” Ante, at 20–21. One would expect more from an opinion striking at the heart of the Nation’s signal piece of civil-rights legislation.

    The Court has time and again declined to upset legislation of this genre unless there was no or almost no evidence of unconstitutional action by States. See, e.g., City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U. S. 507, 530 (1997) (legislative record “mention[ed] no episodes [of the kind the legislation aimed to check] occurring in the past 40 years”). No such claim can be made about the congressional record for the 2006 VRA reauthorization. Given a record replete with examples of denial or abridgment of a paramount federal right, the Court should have left the matter where it belongs: in Congress’ bailiwick.

    Instead, the Court strikes §4(b)’s coverage provision because, in its view, the provision is not based on “current conditions.” Ante, at 17. It discounts, however, that one such condition was the preclearance remedy in place in the covered jurisdictions, a remedy Congress designed both to catch discrimination before it causes harm, and to guard against return to old ways. 2006 Reauthorization §2(b)(3), (9). Volumes of evidence supported Congress’ determination that the prospect of retrogression was real. Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.

    The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear­ ance is no longer needed. Ante, at 21–22, 23–24. With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself. The same assumption—that the problem could be solved when particular methods of voting discrim­ ination are identified and eliminated—was indulged and proved wrong repeatedly prior to the VRA’s enactment. Unlike prior statutes, which singled out particular tests or devices, the VRA is grounded in Congress’ recognition of the “variety and persistence” of measures designed to impair minority voting rights. Katzenbach, 383 U. S., at 311; supra, at 2. In truth, the evolution of voting discrim­ination into more subtle second-generation barriers is powerful evidence that a remedy as effective as preclear­ance remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.

    Beyond question, the VRA is no ordinary legislation. It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment. For a half century, a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.

    The record supporting the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA is also extraordinary. It was described by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee as “one of the most extensive considerations of any piece of legisla­ tion that the United States Congress has dealt with in the 271⁄2 years” he had served in the House. 152 Cong. Rec. H5143 (July 13, 2006) (statement of Rep. Sensenbrenner).

    After exhaustive evidence-gathering and deliberative process, Congress reauthorized the VRA, including the coverage provision, with overwhelming bipartisan support. It was the judgment of Congress that “40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination following nearly 100 years of disregard for the dictates of the 15th amendment and to ensure that the right of all citizens to vote is protected as guaranteed by the Constitution.” 2006 Reauthorization §2(b)(7), 120 Stat. 577. That determination of the body empowered to enforce the Civil War Amendments “by appropriate legis­lation” merits this Court’s utmost respect. In my judg­ment, the Court errs egregiously by overriding Congress’ decision.

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    Supreme Court Weakens Title VII Protections

    June 24, 2013

    From Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in today’s Supreme Court Decision in Vance v. Ball State, which narrowly defined “supervisor” so as to limit employer liability (thus, employee protection) in workplace harassment cases: Exhibiting remarkable resistance to the thrust of our prior decisions, workplace realities, and the EEOC’s Guidance, the Court embraces a position that relieves scores of […]

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    Prediction: National Marriage Equality Within 9 Months

    November 8, 2012

    Prior to Tuesday, six states (New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa) and the District of Columbia had full marriage equality. As a result of Tuesday’s historic election, three additional states will now have marriage equality as well. Those states are Maine, Maryland, and Washington. (Technically, at the time of this post, Washington’s results […]

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    Evidence Law & Spousal Privilege (or Lack Thereof) for Gay and Lesbian Couples

    August 29, 2012

    The rights, privileges, and responsibilities afforded to married individuals in the United States are vast and varied.  As a matter of clear public policy, federal, state, and local governments grant married individuals everything from tax breaks to survivorship rights.  Gay and lesbian couples across the country have sought to be included in these benefits and […]

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    How Your Vote Affects Civil Rights Decisions

    June 29, 2012

    Andrew Cohen, contributing editor at The Atlantic, discusses in Supreme Court Review: The Tyranny of the Majority how four of this week’s controversial decisions from the nation’s highest Court were decided by one vote. Cohen’s piece is a solid reminder that, despite the complexity and nuance of constitutional law, it is the ballot box during […]

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    Lawsuit Alleges Old Boys’ Club in Young Industry

    June 12, 2012

    In Bradwell v. Illinois, (U.S. 1873), the Supreme Court declared that allowing a woman to practice law would surely destroy her femininity. According to the 8-1 decision, law is a man’s profession and  women simply aren’t well-suited for such rigor. While that may seem archaic, it wouldn’t be until 1971 that the Court invalidated such discrimination by […]

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    Supreme Court to Review Prop 8 and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

    June 7, 2012

    Tuesday’s decision in Perry v. Brown (the “Prop 8” case) means that roughly one year from now, it is likely that the United States Supreme Court will be giving its opinion on the now infamous 2008 ballot proposition that resulted in barring Californian gay couples from joining in marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy will ultimately decide the fate of […]

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    Is the Affordable Care Act Constitutional?

    December 15, 2011

    The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of The Patient Care and Affordable Care Act in March 2012.  The Affordable Care Act stands as President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, promising affordable health insurance to every American.  Congress narrowly passed the statute in March 2010 after a heated national debate — opponents quickly […]

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    US Supreme Court overturns $15M jury award to citizen wrongfully imprisoned for 14 years

    June 15, 2011

    In Connick v. Thompson, the Supreme Court reversed both the federal district court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to hold that a District Attorney could not be held liable for failure to train his prosecutors regarding their obligation to turn over exonerating evidence to defense attorneys.  In a 5 to 4 decision divided on […]

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    Can Wisconsin’s new law limiting collective bargaining in the public sector be challenged in court?

    March 15, 2011

    Recently, the state of Wisconsin passed a bill by special assembly that critically limits collective bargaining rights for most workers in the public sector.  It appears that the dispute between proponents and opponents of the bill may find its way into the courtroom.  Legal precedent disfavors those challenging the bill, but there are both procedural […]

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    The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act makes it easier to sue for unlawful employment discrimination

    December 15, 2010

    Congress passed the LLFPA to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2007 holding in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc.    In that case, Justice Alito led a 5-4 majority in concluding that Ledbetter could not sue Goodyear under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for gender based pay discrimination that she had experienced […]

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