MINNEAPOLIS | The Rapid City women exchanging marriage vows in a church here today are getting the royal treatment in Minnesota, far different than in their home state where their joining will not be considered legal.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is officiating the wedding of Nancy Robrahn, 68, and Jennie Rosenkranz, 72.
Later in the day, the newlyweds will be guests of honor at a gathering of the PFund Foundation, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender philanthropy organization.
In addition to making their union official, Robrahn and Rosenkranz will use their nuptials to become the first South Dakota residents to legally challenge the state's ban on same-sex marriage and its refusal to recognize gay marriage. Two other South Dakota couples will join the lawsuit.
Kate Brickman, a spokesperson for Mayor Hodges, said the mayor welcomed the opportunity to preside over the wedding, as she has with others involving both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.
"Mayor Hodges has long been a supporter of the freedom to marry," Brickman said. "She is really excited to help support that nationally."
After Minnesota passed its law legalizing gay marriage last May, then-Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak embarked on a regional tour to tout his city as a destination for gay couples who wanted to wed but couldn't do so legally in their home state.
The South Dakota couple is likely to get a chillier reception back home, where they plan to file a lawsuit against the state for refusing to recognize their marriage.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley has said he is obligated to defend the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.
"It is the statutory responsibility of the attorney general to defend both our state constitution and statutory laws, which I intend to do if a lawsuit is filed," he said. "If there is going to be a change in the definition of marriage, I believe it should again come from a vote of South Dakotans on the ballot and not through the court system."
Robrahn and Rosenkranz will marry in the Community of Christ Church, nestled in a north Minneapolis neighborhood. The couple met in Rapid City in the early 1980s, after they were divorced from their husbands.
The couple is challenging the law partly to do "the right thing" and partly for practical reasons, such as ensuring they have federal protections for inheritance when one of them dies.
"The struggle has always been, we don't need to confirm to the world our relationship," Robrahn told the Journal. "It's been there for 27 years."
Joshua Newville, the couple's attorney, said Friday he took the case after the couple was unable to find an attorney in South Dakota.
Two other women from western South Dakota who were married in Connecticut and two men from the eastern part of the state who are getting married in Iowa also plan to join the lawsuit, according to Newville.
"So Nancy and Jennie and the other couples have decided not only do we want to challenge the state's marriage ban, but the state not recognizing marriages from other states," he said.
The South Dakota Legislature passed a law in 1996 banning gay marriage. In 2006, in a 52 to 48 percent outcome, state voters approved a constitutional amendment that says only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid.
South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Alaska are the only states with a ban on same-sex marriage that has not yet been challenged in court, according to Human Rights Campaign, a group advocating for gay rights.
The Pennington County Register of Deeds' office denied Robrahn and Rosenkranz a South Dakota marriage license earlier this spring. That gives the couple standing to legally challenge the state ban, Newville said.
After they're married in Minnesota, the women plan to ask the Pennington County clerk for a legal name change and expect to be denied. That would allow them to file a lawsuit in federal court to challenge a U.S. provision allowing states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, he said.
Newville said he's still weighing which federal courthouse in South Dakota to file the lawsuit.
South Dakota would be the 29th state with a marriage equality court case, the Human Rights Campaign said.
"There are so many states that are challenging state laws that if this ever goes to the Supreme Court, if every state has some kind of lawsuit happening in it, the Supreme Court can't ignore it," Robrahn said.
Robrahn said she and Rosenkranz considered hyphenating their names but quickly determined it wouldn't fit on blank checks or a driver's license.
So they combined the two and will become "Mrs. and Mrs. Rosenbrahn."