A federal judge on Monday struck down South Dakota's ban on gay marriage.

Lawmakers in 1996 approved a law prohibiting same sex couples from marrying. A decade later, voters approved a constitutional amendment reinforcing the law.

“Plaintiffs have a fundamental right to marry,” U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier said in her 28-page ruling. “South Dakota law deprives them of that right solely because they are same-sex couples without sufficient justification.”

Schreier stayed her ruling pending an expected appeal.

Plaintiffs in the case are five couples who want their out-of-state marriages recognized by South Dakota and a couple who wishes to marry in the state. Two of the couples are raising children. They are represented by two local lawyers and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

“We are thrilled for our clients and for all same-sex couples in South Dakota, who have watched and waited as progress has been made in so many other states, and who can now see light at the end of the tunnel in their own state,” said Christoper F. Stoll, senior staff attorney with NCLR. “We are also grateful to Judge Schreier for writing such a detailed and powerful analysis and for affirming in such strong terms that same-sex couples have the same fundamental freedom to marry as others. We hope this decision will hasten the day when the Supreme Court decides this issue for the country and ensures that all families are treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Gay couples can wed in 36 states, in addition to the District of Columbia, with Florida being the latest.

(Ruling provided by Equality Case Files.)