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ACLU of SD Praises Court’s Gay Marriage Rulings

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The head of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota said Wednesday she’s ecstatic with the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on same-sex marriage, but the decisions do little to affect state laws banning the practice.

The nation’s high court ruled Wednesday that same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples, invalidating provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The justices also cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriages in California, the most populous U.S. state.

“Today’s ruling is a historic victory for gay and lesbian Americans and a tremendous step forward for the cause of equality,” said Jana Kooren, ACLU of South Dakota’s acting executive director. “But striking down DOMA does not change our state marriage laws.”

Gay marriage has been banned in South Dakota since the Legislature passed a law in 1996, and the prohibition was reiterated in the state constitution by voters in 2006.

“I guess I support that,” South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I voted for it along with a majority of South Dakotans.”

The governor said he thinks marriage as an institution has a stabilizing effect on the raising of children.

“It doesn’t mean the state is homophobic,” Daugaard said. “It just extends some additional benefits to a married couple to help them provide a home for children.”

Attorney General Marty Jackley said South Dakota’s definition of marriage, which is limited to a man and a woman, remains 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,” Jackley said in a statement.

Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.

In the DOMA case, the Supreme Court invalidated provisions of the act that have prevented gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and retirement benefits that are generally available to married people.

Kooren said the newfound rights will apply to same-sex couples living in South Dakota who were married elsewhere, but she said access to the full range of federal marital protections will take some work and time to achieve.

The high court’s second decision was a technical legal ruling that cleared the way for resumption of same-sex marriages in California. The justices, however, said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in roughly three dozen states, including South Dakota.

Ben Nesselhuf, chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said the party is committed to marriage equality and will keep working until every loving couple across South Dakota has the same rights under the law.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory for LGBT people across the country who have fought for equal rights under the law,” Nesselhuf said in a statement. “But the fight isn’t over.”