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Religious Tolerance logo

Attaining same-sex marriage and equal rights for the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual (LGBT) community in South Carolina

Part 4: 2014-OCT/NOV: District Court rules
South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage
to be unconstitutional
.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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The term "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

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Note: In the original drafts of this essay, some of the passages
were in the wrong order. We apologize for any confusion this caused.

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2014-OCT-20: "Bradacs v. Haley" lawsuit progresses in federal District Court:

During 2013, Tracie Goodwin and Katherine Bradacs had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Southern Division. They had been legally married in the District of Columbia during 2012-APR, and were asking South Carolina to recognize their marriage where they live.

The plaintiffs filed a motion requesting the District Court for a summary judgment. That is, they asked U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs to not hold a hearing but to render a decision on out-of-state marriages by same-sex couples based on the briefs already filed with the Court.

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2014-OCT-24: South Carolina's Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) filed a brief:

He wrote:

"Because this case seeks to decide the core question of two people’s marital status, it belongs in state court, rather than in federal court.

For more than a century the U.S. Supreme Court and as other courts have concluded that issues involving domestic relations, including marriage 'are conclusively within the authority of state courts'."

This seems like a curious argument, because the vast majority of the dozens of lawsuits seeking to attain marriage equality that have been filed since mid-2013 have been in federal District Courts. Many have been appealed to U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. Four have been appealed further to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The brief also stated that the lawsuit cannot identify the South Carolina's Governor and Attorney General as defendants because they:

"... lack specific enforcement authority regarding South Carolina's same-sex marriage provisions." 1

It is not clear to us who should be named as defendant(s) in a lawsuit challenging a constitutional amendment if it is not to be the Attorney General and Governor.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have argued that during the previous 16 months:

"... there have been more than 40 federal and state court decisions striking down bans on marriage equality. ... A larger portion of the United States population lives in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage than do not."

South Carolina is now the only state within the jurisdiction of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that does not recognize that the Circuit Court's ruling on same-sex marriage in Virginia is binding throughout all of the five states over which the Court's has jurisdiction.

It might be necessary to wait until the mid-term elections on NOV-04 before any progress can be made on this case. Both the Governor and Attorney General are members of the Republican Party. For them to take any action favoring marriage equality would damage their party's chances in the election.

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2014-NOV-12: District Court Judge Richard Gergel declared ban on same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional:

Judge Gergel issued his ruling in "Condon v. Haley," on the usual 14th Amendment grounds. He wrote:

"The Court hereby declares that [the S.C. constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage], to the extent they seek to prohibit the marriage of same sex couples who otherwise meet all other legal requirements for marriage in South Carolina, unconstitutionally infringe on the rights of plaintiffs under the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and are invalid as a matter of law." 2

Judge Gergal stayed his ruling until noon on NOV-20 Eastern time, in order to give the state time to appeal. The Office of the Attorney General issued a statement later that day stating:

"Today's ruling comes as no surprise and does not change the constitutional obligation of this Office to defend South Carolina law, including, but not necessarily limited to, appeal to the Fourth Circuit [Court of Appeals]. Therefore, we will immediately appeal to the Fourth Circuit."

The South Carolina Equality Coalition, a group promoting access to marriage by same-sex couples issued a news release stating that their group were:

"... relieved and excited." 

"Judge Gergel's order is music to our ears. Same-sex couples in South Carolina should have been able to marry starting October 6 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused review of the Fourth Circuit's decision striking down the ban in Virginia. It's a shame that the Governor and Attorney General delayed the inevitable and harmed some of the residents they were elected to protect. There is no reason to continue to delay -– we call on state officials to drop any further legal maneuvers and let couples get married." 2

Some readers to the above article on the WIS-TV web site posted some interesting comments:

  • Chip Stubbs posted:

    "And SC is dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century..."

  • Andy Sidden, minister at the Garden of Grace United Church of Christ posted:

    "So much for which to give thanks. Looking forward to officiating at marriages of many couples who have waited so long. This is answered prayer."

  • Dan Adams posted an intolerant message:

    "Fantastic news! [Governor] Nikki Haley, [Attorney General] Alan Wilson, and the rest of the bigoted, backwards 'leadership' sure did want to go down fighting on this issue, didn't they?

    To all the people who don't like this ruling: you know what they say. If you don't like it, you can leave."

  • Ben Nations posted:

    "I think a big question is Religious Freedom. Why should a Pastor be forced to perform a marriage is goes against his religious beliefs? We had best look behind the smoke at what we are really losing. Pastors in Texas are being told they can not preach some parts of the Bible if it goes against what they believe in."

    To which Janet Knox responded:

  • No pastor is ever required to perform a marriage ceremony...that's why we have the Justice of the Peace. Many pastors refuse to marry folks who do not belong to their church or have lived together prior to marriage. This ruling does not affect what churches can or cannot do." 2

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Bruce Smith, "SC: Couple can't bring same-sex federal lawsuit," The State, 2014-OCT-23, at: http://www.thestate.com/
  2. Jeremy Turnage, "US district court judge strikes down SC's same-sex marriage ban, SC AG to appeal," WIS-TV, 2014-NOV-12, at: http://www.wistv.com/
  3. David Badash, "Breaking: Big South Carolina Marriage News – Stay Denied, Marriage Ban Struck Down, More," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2014-NOV-18, at: http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/
  4. Pete Williams, "Supreme Court Denies Stay in South Carolina Same-Sex Marriage," NBC News, 2014-NOV-20, at: http://www.nbcnews.com/
  5. "Originalism," Wikipedia, as on 2014-NOV-20, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  6. Louis Crompton, "Homosexuality and the Death Penalty in Colonial America," University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 1976-JAN-01, at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/
  7. "US Supreme Court refuses to block equal marriage in South Carolina," Pink News, 2014-NOV-20. at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  8. "Same-sex marriage could impact SC's economics," WIS-TV, 2014-NOV, at: http://www.wistv.com/
  9. Tony Santaella, "4th Circuit Won't Stop Gay Marriage in SC," WLTX-TV, 2014-NOV-18, at: http://www.wltx.com/
  10. Scott Cooke, "Same Sex Marriage: How Midlands Counties Are Responding," WLTX-TV, 2014-NOV-19, at: http://www.wltx.com/

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Site navigation: Home > Same-sex marriage > SSM menu > South Carolina > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2014-OCT-22
Last updated 2014-NOV-21
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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