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Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

November 14, 2014

DENNIS DAUGAARD, in his official capacity as Governor; MARTY JACKLEY, in his official capacity as Attorney General; DONEEN HOLLINGSWORTH, in her official capacity as Secretary of Health; TREVOR JONES, in his official capacity as Secretary of Public Safety; and CAROL SHERMAN, in her official capacity as Brown County Register of Deeds;, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Jennie Rosenbrahn, Nancy Rosenbrahn, Jeremy Coller, Clay Schweitzer, Lynn Serling-Swank, Monica Serling-Swank, Krystal Cosby, Kaitlynn Hoerner, Barbara Wright, Ashley Wright, Greg Kniffen, Mark Church, Plaintiffs: Debra M. Voigt, LEAD ATTORNEY, Burd & Voigt Law Office, Sioux Falls, SD; Joshua A. Newville, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Madia Law LLC, Minneapolis, MN; Christopher F. Stoll, Shannon P. Minter, PRO HAC VICE, National Center for Lesbian Rights, San Francisco, CA.

For Dennis Daugaard in his official capacity as Governor, Marty Jackley, in his official capacity as Attorney General, Doneen Hollingsworth, in her official capacity as Secretary of Health, Trevor Jones, in his official capacity as Secretary of Public Safety, Defendants: Jeffrey P. Hallem, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney General's Office, Pierre, SD; Roxanne Giedd, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney General of South Dakota, Pierre, SD.

For Carol Sherman, in her official capacity as Brown County Register of Deeds, Defendant: Justin Lee Bell, Robert B. Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, May, Adam, Gerdes & Thompson, Pierre, SD.

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Defendants move the court to dismiss all claims. Docket 10. Plaintiffs resist that motion. The court heard oral argument on October 17, 2014. For the following reasons, the court grants in part and denies in part the motion to dismiss.


The facts, according to the complaint (Docket 1), are as follows:

In 1996, the South Dakota legislature adopted SDCL 25-1-1, which declares in pertinent part, " Marriage is a personal relation, between a man and a woman . . . ." Four years later, the South Dakota

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legislature amended SDCL 25-1-38 to clarify that any marriage entered into in another state " except a marriage contracted between two persons of the same gender" is valid in South Dakota. In 2006, South Dakota voters approved Amendment C to the South Dakota Constitution, which reads:

Only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in South Dakota. The uniting of two or more persons in a civil union, domestic partnership, or other quasi-marital relationship shall not be valid or recognized in South Dakota.

S.D. Const. art. 21 § 9.

Plaintiffs in this matter are six couples impacted by South Dakota's marriage laws. Nancy and Jennie Rosenbrahn, both females, live in Rapid City, South Dakota. They have lived together for nearly thirty years and have numerous children and grandchildren. When they decided to marry, they were unable to obtain a marriage license in South Dakota. As a result, the Rosenbrahns traveled to Minnesota and were validly married according to that state's laws. South Dakota does not recognize their marriage.

Jeremy Coller and Clay Schweitzer also reside in Rapid City, South Dakota. They are a same-sex couple. Jeremy and Clay also applied for a South Dakota marriage license and were denied. They were married in Iowa in May 2014.

Lynn and Monica Serling-Swank live in Brandon, South Dakota, and have been in a same-sex relationship for over twelve years. They entered into a civil union in Connecticut in 2006, which was converted into a marriage in 2010. Subsequently, they moved to South Dakota to be closer to family. South Dakota does not recognize their marriage.

Krystal Cosby and Kaitlynn Hoerner reside in Aberdeen, South Dakota. They met in 2012 and have one child together, although Kaitlynn is not officially recognized as a parent because they are a same-sex couple. They also applied for a marriage license in South Dakota but were denied.

Barbara and Ashley Wright also live in Aberdeen. They are a same-sex couple. They met in 2012, and were lawfully married in Minnesota on September 20, 2013. They have six children from previous relationships, and Ashley will give birth to another in the fall of 2014. Their marriage is not recognized by South Dakota, nor is Barbara's status as a parent of their expected child.

Greg Kniffen and Mark Church live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They have been together as a same-sex couple for eleven years, and they were legally married in Minnesota on October 11, 2013. South Dakota does not recognize their marriage.

Defendants in this matter are all officials for the state of South Dakota. Dennis Daugaard is the governor of South Dakota and enforces and executes all laws of the state. Marty Jackley is the Attorney General and is the chief legal officer of the state. Doneen Hollingsworth is the Secretary of Health and oversees South Dakota's vital records registration system. Trevor Jones is the Secretary of Public Safety and oversees South Dakota's driver's license service centers. Carol Sherman is the Brown County Register of Deeds, whose duties include issuing marriage licenses. Defendants have all been named as defendants in their official capacities due to their roles in enforcing South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban.

On May 22, 2014, plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban deprives them of their

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constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, and travel. Plaintiffs seek declarative and injunctive relief. Docket 1. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. Docket 10. Plaintiffs then moved for summary judgment (Docket 20) and filed a joint brief in support of that motion and in opposition to the motion to dismiss. Docket 23; Docket 24. The court granted defendants' motion to extend the deadline for its response to plaintiffs' summary judgment motion until ten days after the court rules on the pending motion to dismiss.


Rule 8 requires a plaintiff to plead " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). " Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)); see also Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d 816, 817 (8th Cir. 2010) (clarifying that " Twombly and Iqbal did not abrogate the notice pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2)" ).

" To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, 'to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The court determines plausibility by considering only the materials in the pleadings and exhibits attached to the complaint, drawing on experience and common sense and viewing the plaintiff's claim as a whole. Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d 1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Mattes v. ABC Plastics, Inc., 323 F.3d 695, 697 n.4 (8th Cir. 2003)). At the motion to dismiss stage, the court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Freitas v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 703 F.3d 436, 438 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Richter v. Advance Auto Parts, Inc., 686 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2012)).

Plaintiffs submitted fifteen exhibits in conjunction with their motion for summary judgment. See Docket 21. A motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is limited to the initial pleadings. Brooks v. Midwest Heart Grp., 655 F.3d 796, 799-800 (8th Cir. 2011). " If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment . . . . All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

If material beyond the pleadings is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may convert the motion to a motion for summary judgment, or it may " reject [any material outside the pleadings] or simply not consider it." 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1366 (3d ed. 2004) [hereinafter Wright & Miller]; see also Casazza v. Kiser, 313 F.3d 414, 417-18 (8th Cir. 2002) (reiterating that a district court does not convert a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a motion for summary judgment if the court does not rely upon matters outside the pleadings). " In adjudicating Rule 12(b) motions, courts are not strictly limited to the four corners of complaints."

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Dittmer Props. L.P. v. F.D.I.C., 708 F.3d 1011, 1021 (8th Cir. 2013) (citing Outdoor Cent., Inc. v., Inc., 643 F.3d 1115, 1120 (8th Cir. 2011))." '[T]he court generally must ignore materials outside the pleadings, but it may consider some materials that are part of the public record or do not contradict the complaint, as well as materials that are necessarily embraced by the pleadings.'" Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab., Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 931 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999)). The court may also consider matters incorporated by reference into the complaint without converting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a summary judgment motion. Id. at 931 n.3 ...

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