SIOUX FALLS, SD – Tuesday marked a historic day for Minnesota and supporters of gay marriage. At 5 p.m., Governor Mark Dayton signed the same sex marriage bill, which passed through the Minnesota Senate and House within the past week.
When the law takes effect on August 1, Minnesota becomes the first in the Midwest to pass the same-sex marriage bill by legislative vote. Iowa, another state the borders South Dakota, has allowed gay couples to marry since 2009, but that was a Supreme Court order.
“You do begin to wonder, why does it stop at the border that’s seven miles east of here?” Rep. Marc Feinstein, (D) Sioux Falls, said.
That’s the big question – will South Dakota follow Minnesota and Iowa and allow same-sex marriage? Feinstein said South Dakota legislators may look at the issue, but probably not anytime soon. He said legalizing gay marriage would be tough because it would require changing the amendment passed in 2006.
“Eventually South Dakota will allow same-sex marriage. Whether it be by federal law, the U.S. Supreme Court, such as what happened in Iowa, that I don’t know,” Feinstein said.
Other lawmakers do not think Minnesota’s legislation will affect neighboring states.
“What’s good for Minnesota isn’t always good for South Dakota,” Rep. Christine Erickson, (R) Sioux Falls, said.
Erickson said lawmakers get hundreds of calls and emails per day when they are in session. Going by what her constituents tell her, Erickson said South Dakota voters’ biggest concerns are gun control and education. The topic of whether or not gay couples can get married did not come up.
“There are times where the conversation will continue, but I don’t know if anything will change here,” Erickson said.
Feinstein and Erickson believe voters will have to make it clear that they want gay and lesbian couples to have marriage rights for the issue to pass in the state.
Right now within South Dakota’s legislature, when it comes to same-sex marriage, there seems to be a difference of opinion.
“I do represent the people of the district, but I also have my traditional core values that I have to stick to as well. So, in that instance, I feel that marriage is left better between a man and a woman,” Erickson said.
“Marriage really is all about commitment. Working together, raising a family and bettering the community and growing older together. I believe everybody should have that right. Whether it’s a same sex couple or a heterosexual couple,” Feinstein said.