Same Sex Marriage Is Legal in South Carolina
On July 28, 2014, in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the case of Bostic v. Schaefer was decided, ruling in favor of equal protection under the law for same-sex couples. The ruling in this Virginia case categorized marriage as a fundamental right meaning that any limitation on the right to marry would be subject to strict scrutiny, the highest standard of scrutiny applied by United States courts. This ruling affirmed a lower Virginia court ruling which held that banning same-sex couples from marriage is unconstitutional.
According to an overwhelming majority of legal scholars, the Bostic ruling set a legal precedent in the Fourth Circuit, meaning any subsequent judge hearing marriage challenges arising out of other states in the Fourth Circuit, including North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia (same-sex marriage is already legal in Maryland), should apply that legal precedent.
The South Carolina cases:
On November 12, 2014, in the case of Condon v. Haley, The Honorable Richard Gergel, U.S. District Judge in Charleston, South Carolina, issued a permanent injunction prohibiting South Carolina Attorney General, Alan Wilson from enforcing any state law that seeks to prohibit same sex marriage or interfere in any way with same-sex couples’ “fundamental right to marry.” Judge Gergel also dismissed Governor Nikki Haley as a Defendant in this case. A one-week stay was granted for appeals to be heard by the Fourth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. That stay expired on November 20, 2014 at noon.
Prior to the one-week stay expiring, on November 18, 2014, in the case of Bradacs v. Haley, The Honorable J. Michelle Childs, U.S. District Judge in Columbia, South Carolina issued a ruling in favor of the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages in South Carolina.
Motions for an emergency stay (or suspension) of the Condon ruling by Alan Wilson were denied by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and then The United States Supreme Court.
These two South Carolina cases, in light of the Fourth Circuit ruling, and the subsequent denials of stay, have cemented marriage equality as legally solid in our state. Probate Courts throughout the state are issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples and all are required by law to do so.
If you or anyone you know has any questions about same sex legal issues in South Carolina, contact Anthony J. Charles at the Finkel Law firm.