U.S. Supreme Court decision does not immediately end South Carolina ban on gay marriage

A United States Supreme Court decision Monday immediately ends bans on gay marriage in five states, but same-sex partners in South Carolina still are not allowed to exchange vows or be legally recognized as married couples.

“We’re cautiously optimistic and hopeful that we’ll see a change in the law here soon,” said Carrie Warner. Warner is the attorney for Katie Bradacs and Tracie Goodwin, a Lexington County couple currently suing South Carolina and seeking recognition of their marriage performed in the District of Columbia.

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from five states, including Virginia. The states appealed in hopes of reversing U.S. Court of Appeals rulings declaring their prohibition of gay marriage unconstitutional.

The Bradacs/Goodwin family and friends on stage at the 2014 SC Pride Festival (file photo by Allen Wallace)

The Bradacs-Goodwin family and friends on stage at the 2014 SC Pride Festival (file photo by Allen Wallace)

Virginia now must allow gay marriage immediately. The Virginia case is seen as a precedent for the Bradacs-Goodwin case because Virginia’s ban is very similar to South Carolina’s, and both states fall under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I think our judge is bound by the court’s decision, bound by federal law,” Warner said. She added, however, that the fight for her and her clients is not over yet. Monday’s ruling does not immediately affect South Carolina. “I think people need to hold off on doing anything,” Warner said of reports of South Carolina same-sex couples immediately applying for marriage licenses.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released a statement Monday saying, “Our case (Bradacs v. Wilson) has not yet been decided.  Until the courts rule on the matter, South Carolina will seek to uphold our state constitution.”

The Human Rights Campaign and SC Equality asked Wilson and other state attorneys general to immediately drop their opposition to gay marriage after Monday’s ruling.

“The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has made it clear that banning marriages for same-sex couples is unconstitutional,” said Jeff Ayers, chair of the SC Equality board of directors. “Since South Carolina is part of the Fourth Circuit and therefore subject to that ruling, the only question is whether our state and its officials will persist in spending taxpayers’ money to fight a lost cause. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, acknowledged that with the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement today, the fight against gay marriage ‘is over.’ South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson should follow this wise example. Our state should enforce the law as determined by the Fourth Circuit rather than trying to uphold unconstitutional legislation or amendments.”

Despite Wilson’s decision to press on with arguing for the ban, Warner said, “We are very excited about [Monday]’s events.”

Warner said she plans to file a motion as early as this week for summary judgement in the case and said that if a Court of Appeals judge approves, the Bradacs-Goodwin case could go to court before the end of 2014.

“This is a great day for gay couples across the country and in South Carolina,” Warner said.

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