Lambda Legal Sues South Carolina: State Must Follow the 4th Circuit Ruling and Allow Same-Sex Couples to Marry

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October 15, 2014
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Today Lambda Legal, in partnership with South Carolina Equality, filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court of South Carolina arguing that South Carolina is obligated to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Governor Haley and Attorney General Wilson vowed to continue to apply the laws banning marriage for same-sex couples even after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a similar ban in Virginia. Because South Carolina is also within the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit, the decision in the Virginia case is binding on South Carolina.

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

The Fourth Circuit’s decision means that same-sex couples in South Carolina should be shopping for a caterer, not a lawyer.  Governor Haley and Attorney General Wilson cannot continue to ignore the rule of law.  Fortunately, they have run out of cards to play—we’re urging the court to allow same-sex couples in South Carolina to marry without any further delay. The state doesn’t have any credible arguments for a court in South Carolina to entertain.

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

The Governor and Attorney General are playing politics with our families and it’s shameful. Instead of celebrating and planning weddings, same-sex couples all over South Carolina are holding their collective breath—and they have been waiting long enough.

Lambda Legal represents Colleen Condon and Nichols Bleckley who applied and paid for a marriage license in Charleston County last week before the 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.

Another federal case, Bradacs v. Haley, remains pending - it involves couples already legally married seeking recognition in South Carolina of their marriage, while the Condon suit seeks the issuance of a marriage license.

Lambda Legal client Colleen Condon said:

We were excited after our application was accepted on Wednesday to realize we could really start planning our wedding. We could set a date and a location and start making deposits—all that came to a screeching halt when we couldn’t get our license on Thursday. It’s terrible that the officials who are supposed to look out for the interests of all South Carolinians are instead making a political point at the expense of my family and thousands of families across the state.

Read the press release.