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States With Bans On Same-Sex Marriage Move To Honor Supreme Court Ruling


There were six states where same-sex marriage laws had been in a kind of legal limbo pending the Supreme Court's ruling. Among them - South Dakota. We're joined now by the attorney general for that state, Marty Jackley. Thanks so much for being with us.

MARTY JACKLEY: Thank you for having me, Rachel.

MARTIN: I'll start by just asking you what went through your mind when you heard the court's decision today?

JACKLEY: You know, certainly this has been a very controversial issue, you know, across the nation and one here in South Dakota. Obviously, we have been a part of this from the District Court onto the 8th Circuit up to the United States Supreme Court. It has always been my position as our state's attorney general that the hope was our citizens of our state would be the ones defining marriage and not the federal government. But certainly, here in South Dakota and I think across the nation, we are a nation of laws. And the state is going to be required to and will follow the court's order allowing and recognizing licenses for same-sex marriage.

MARTIN: This has been an ongoing issue, as you say, in your state for long time. In 2006, residents of South Dakota passed a ban on same-sex marriage. Public opinion polls say that the majority of residents there still oppose same-sex marriage. Is this over now, or do you think there will likely be more legal fights in your state?

JACKLEY: You know, certainly, when you look at South Dakota, we have both a constitutional amendment voted in by the people of South Dakota as well as a state statute by our legislature. And, you know, certainly, there's a strong belief that we here in South Dakota should be the ones to determine how to define marriage. But we also are a state where we respect the law.

And now the Supreme Court has spoken on that, we are already in the process of, you know, immediately treating this order as effective. We are of course giving our local and state officials a practical, reasonable amount of time to implement. I would suspect that you won't see that many marriage licenses here in South Dakota. You will see some, obviously. We were just waiting for the Supreme Court decision before we would change or implement our systems here in South Dakota to permit the licensing of these type of marriages.

MARTIN: When do you think that will happen? When will same-sex couples be able to get marriage licenses?

JACKLEY: The state system we call our vital records is being changed as we speak to allow for the implementation or the input of that data. It will depend - our registered deeds here in South Dakota that are elected local officials - we had 66 of them - have obviously different systems and different processes. But they are in the way or in the process of implementing those. So I would envision we may have some licenses issued as early as today. And then, certainly, as a reasonable period of time proceeds onward to allow for the system changes, it will go statewide.

MARTIN: What kinds of questions are you getting today from either religious leaders or business leaders about what this means for them?

JACKLEY: You know, probably one of the biggest ones is the practical question - is when do we need to be issuing these licenses? And that was dealt with earlier today when I, as attorney general, talked to several other of my colleague attorneys general and determined that we would treat this opinion as effective immediately with that recognition that there would be a practical, reasonable period of time to implement.

The other question that I'm receiving is as attorney general - you know, we feel that we have the right and the ability to define marriage and don't feel that five federal justices should be defining it. Is there other options? And, of course, you know, the Supreme Court decision was fairly lengthy and fairly clear. Certainly, I keep an open mind as to whether or not there are other options. But at this point, it's being treated as effective immediately, and we're doing what we can to effectively follow that rule of law.

MARTIN: Marty Jackley is the state attorney general for South Dakota. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

JACKLEY: You bet. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.