Monica and Lynn Serling-Swank are the picture of a happily married couple. They playfully bicker. They finish each other’s thoughts. And when they look at each other, you can’t help but see the love they share.
But in South Dakota, their nearly 8 years of marriage isn’t recognized.
The couple – and five other same-sex couples in South Dakota – filed a lawsuit to block South Dakota’s gay marriage ban, and gain equal recognition in the eyes of the law.
The Serling-Swanks have been together for 11 years, and were married in Connecticut on June 4, 2006. In 2007, the couple moved to South Dakota to be closer to Monica’s family.
Neighbors and co-workers supported their relationship, but when Monica was hospitalized, the law wasn’t on their side.
“We’re considered second-class citizens,” Lynn said. “We shouldn’t have to worry about losing a job, hospitalizations – we shouldn’t have to put in such extra effort to be acknowledged.”
The women are honored to be named on the lawsuit.
“We’re the same as everybody else,” Monica said, “and we want to be treated the same as everybody else.”
Joshua Newville, the Minneapolis-based attorney handling the case, says any same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.
“Like the rest of the country, South Dakota is a state filled with loving, committed couples, many of whom happen to be same-sex, and they desire to be united in marriage,” he said.
The lawsuit in South Dakota is one of 30 same-sex marriage cases pending across the United States. North Dakota is the only state in the nation with a ban that hasn’t been challenged in court.
“With the filing of this lawsuit, South Dakota is joining the other states in the nation who are engaged in a very historic and important discussion about what it means to treat each other equally under the law,’ Newville said.
Governor Daugaard says the ban was put in place by voters, and it may be up to them to decide on any future changes.
"I think it should be up to the people of South Dakota to judge what their constitution allows, but we'll see where the federal judge comes down," Daugaard said.
Attorney General Marty Jackley says he is obligated to defended South Dakota's constitution.
But Monica and Lynn say they’ve been fighting for years, and they’re committed to seeing the state’s ban overturned.
“It gives couples hope they won’t have to fight in the future,” Lynn said. “It won’t be a matter of same-sex marriage – it’ll just be marriage.”