SIOUX FALLS (AP) — After a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling and a weekend of celebration, many gay South Dakotans are settling into their new lives as legally married couples, but advocates in the state say now is not the time to slow down.
"We're not done; far from it," said Nancy Rosenbrahn, a Rapid City woman whose marriage to her partner of 27 years is now recognized in South Dakota.
Rosenbrahn and others in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in South Dakota caution that despite the Supreme Court ruling that declared same-sex marriage legal across the country, other issues remain.
In South Dakota, like several other states, sexual orientation is not a protected class at the state level and people can still be fired or denied housing for being gay. While a few city and county governments have ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, advocates want statewide protection in employment and housing.
Liberal legislators have tried in the past to pass such protections but have had little luck. Sen. Angie Buhl O'Donnell, a Democrat from Sioux Falls, said she thinks now is the time to revive that conversation.
But the prospects for statewide legislative success are bleak, many advocates admit.
"I recognize that South Dakota is a challenging political climate, but the more important piece here is: people at this point could get married on Saturday, and fired on Monday for getting married," Buhl O'Donnell said. "I think it would be important for the Legislature to address that."
Rosenbrahn agreed that passing legislation through Pierre would be difficult.
"I don't think our Legislature is ever going to be willingly liberal enough to vote that in," she said.
Any push to expand discrimination protection to cover sexual orientation will likely be met with renewed resistance.
Conservatives nationwide have vowed to defend their religious liberties in light of the Supreme Court ruling, and that effort will likely grow in South Dakota, said Rep. Scott Craig, a Rapid City Republican and pastor.
"I am certain there will be something that will be developed to ensure this country and this state maintains its promise to protect religious freedom as secured in the First Amendment," he said.
Craig and Dale Bartscher, both part of the conservative Family Heritage Alliance, said they feel strongly that they need to protect religious freedoms and expression in South Dakota. Both said they weren't sure what that would look like in the Legislature, although Craig said he would like to see the attorney general allow county officials to refuse issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for religious reasons
"Freedom of religious expression is monumental," Craig said. "The need to secure that cannot be overstated."