Mpls attorney Josh Newville leading fight for marriage equality in South Dakota

Categories: GLBT, Law
Newville: "We feel the time is right, and this is important, so we filed."
Just two years removed from graduating from the University of Minnesota law school, Josh Newville is making international headlines.

Yesterday, Newville filed suit in Sioux Falls district court on behalf of six same-sex couples challenging a South Dakota constitutional amendment banning gay marriage approved by voters in 2006. It argues the ban violates the couples' constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, and right to travel.

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"The state will incur little to no burden in allowing same-sex couples to marry and in recognizing the lawful marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions on the same terms as different-sex couples, while the hardship to plaintiffs of being denied due process, equal protection, and privileges or immunities is severe, subjecting them to an irreparable denial of their constitutional rights," the lawsuit says.

Reached for comment in Minneapolis today, Newville says he got involved in the case thanks to an old law school buddy who was working in the Black Hills area of South Dakota.

"Constitutional litigation is an area I'm extremely interested in, gay rights and discrimination," Newville tells us. "I grew up in a rural area in Wisconsin and wanted that to be changed, so when I was asked if I was interested [in the South Dakota case], I said, 'Absolutely.'"

But the case isn't the slam dunk it might seem to be amid the same-sex marriage wave sweeping the country in recent years. According to Newville, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth District, which has jurisdiction in South Dakota, "is the only court that has a bad precedent on this issue."

"In 2006 there was a challenge to Nebraska's [same-sex marriage] ban and during oral arguments one of the judges compared same-sex marriage to marrying your dog," Newville says. "As you can imagine the opinion that came down ended up being hostile." (Read about that case here.)

But the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 ruling in United States vs. Windsor, which held that restricting the federal interpretation of "marriage" and "spouse" to apply only to heterosexual unions is unconstitutional, gave Newville confidence South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban could be defeated.

"Once Windsor came down, the opinion was clear about the animus and harm that comes from these kind of bans," Newville says. "Having the additional benefit of the Windsor opinion is I think why you're seeing all these [bans] fall in rapid succession throughout the country. It's not a political issue anymore -- the courts are coming around and realizing that this is a constitutional violation."

So despite the bad precedent in the appeals court, Newville decided to represent the South Dakota couples after all.

"I thought to myself, this lawsuit is coming, and if I don't represent them, they're going to find someone who will," he says.

Newville says his case is substantially different than the one brought against Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban back in 2006.

(For more, click to page two.)

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Sounds like a passionate advocate. So proud that he's from Minnesota!

Mike Jones
Mike Jones

Read the article. "Yesterday, Newville filed suit in Sioux Falls district court on behalf of six same-sex couples..." Newville is just the lawyer.


Two years out of law school? I don't any professional field where a person knows what the hell they're doing after only working for two years.

It's my understanding that if this guy gambles and loses, a precedent could be set that could take decades to overturn, unless the Supreme Court makes a relevant ruling of some sort.

Keith Morris
Keith Morris

Because South Dakotans don't have the right to decide which constitutional rights you get to have or not as an American citizen? That would be like if a majority voted that women don't have the right to have access to the 2nd amendment. I'd imagine that would turn ugly real quick for men there, well before any Minnesotan even thought of intervening.

Kevin Jay
Kevin Jay

no wonder south dakota hates us. I mean why infiltrate them? if south dakota does not want gay marriage why do you feel it is your place to take them to court?

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

That's a great question.  Why would people feel that tax paying gay Americans deserve to be treated like every other person in this country?   You are such a nitwit.  How about we pass a law that Kevin Jay can't drive during the day time any more.  If Minnesota wants Kevin Jay to only be able to drive at night why do you feel it is your place to argue Kevin you stupid nitwit?  


@KennyX @MicheleBachmann Your very presuasive argument has completely swayed my way of thinking regarding this matter.

Please, go on.

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@kennyx Great contribution from the bigot with a tiny brain.  

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