PIERRE, S.D., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Monday ruled South Dakota's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, though the decision will be stayed pending an appeal.
No same-sex couples will be able to get married until U.S. District Court Judge Karen E. Schreier's ruling has been appealed, but South Dakota is one step closer to joining the 36 other states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow gay marriage.
"Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry. South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples and without sufficient justification," Schreier said.
She compared same-sex marriage to interracial marriage, which was banned in some states until the Supreme Court's landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling. The ruling allowed Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving to marry.
"Because Virginia's laws deprived that couple of their fundamental right to marriage, the court struck down those laws," Schreier said. "Little distinguishes this case from Loving. Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry."
State Attorney General Marty Jackley said, "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."