Victory! Federal Judge Strikes Down Discriminatory South Carolina Marriage Ban

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November 12, 2014

Today, the U. S. District Court for the District of South Carolina struck down South Carolina’s ban on marriages for same-sex couples as unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex couples across the state to marry. Lambda Legal and South Carolina Equality filed suit after the South Carolina Governor and Attorney General refused to respect a decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a similar ban in Virginia. Today’s ruling was stayed until noon on November 20.

Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, said:

Today’s decision moves South Carolina closer to equality as it becomes the next state to allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry! It is a shame  it took another lawsuit  to ensure that state officials respected the federal constitution, but the time is almost here for same-sex couples who want to marry to call the caterer! Last month, the Fourth Circuit made its views on marriage bans within its jurisdiction crystal clear, and with today’s order our clients Colleen and Nichols can move forward with their wedding plans. For them and many other South Carolinian same-sex couples the wait is almost over.

South Carolina Equality lawyer Nekki Shutt, partner at Callison Tighe & Robinson, said:

Judge Gergel’s order is music to our ears. Same-sex couples in South Carolina should have been able to marry starting Oct 6th 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.

Lambda Legal client Colleen Condon said:

We are relieved and excited about today’s decision. Soon we will be able to obtain the marriage license we tried to get last month and resume our wedding plans.  I represent families in South Carolina Family Court every day, and it is exhilarating to know that my family should now be recognized by South Carolina, and will be protected under its marriage laws.  This is great day for our family and thousands of families across the state.

Lambda Legal and South Carolina Equality represent Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley who applied, and paid, for a marriage license in Charleston County soon after the U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to review rulings out of three federal appellate circuits – including the 4th Circuit – invalidating discriminatory marriage bans in five states. However, before they received their marriage license, South Carolina’s Attorney General asked the South Carolina State Supreme Court to step in and put a halt to the issuances of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The South Carolina Supreme Court effectively stopped state court judges from issuing marriage licenses or weighing in on marriage equality pending an order from federal court. Today’s ruling strikes down South Carolina’s discriminatory marriage ban citing precedent set by the Fourth Circuit’s decision in the Virginia marriage case.  

Lambda Legal attorney Beth Littrell is handling the case, joined by South Carolina Equality Coalition attorneys M. Malissa Burnette and  Nekki Shutt of Callison Tighe & Robinson, LLC., and Vickie Eslinger, with Nexsen Pruett,LLC.

Read the press release.