South Carolina Hub

Pro-Gay, No Pay? No Way, Legal Experts Say


We're gonna go lay by the bay. We just may. But first we'd like to allay any possible dismay ... 

In one last, pathetic, legislative gasp against marriage equality, lawmakers in South Carolina and Texas have introduced bills that would revoke the salaries of state employees who issue or recognize same-sex marriage licenses. 

In the Lone Star State, as we've reported, the legislation is authored by GOP Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. (above), who says same-sex marriage will cause “the moral degradation of the fabric that holds Texas together.”

Strep_sc__bill-chumleyIn South Carolina, the bill was filed by GOP Rep. Bill Chumley (right), who says same-sex marriage goes against God's law and is "an attack on our moral foundation." 

Not surprisingly, it turns out that Bell and Chumley are a little chummy, according to U.S. News and World Report

South Carolina state Rep. Bill Chumley, a Republican, says he doesn’t care what the federal courts say. He wrote the South Carolina bill and says he’s been in indirect contact with the Texas lawmaker, Republican Rep. Cecil Bell, who’s sponsoring nearly identical legislation.

“I don’t have a problem with the people it might affect,” Chumley says. “I don’t judge them. Our issue is with the amendment to the [state] constitution being thrown out. I believe the people of South Carolina have a sovereign right to say what they want and they have done that.”

Bell says he was inspired by Chumley’s bill and worries federal courts legalizing same-sex marriage would cause “the moral degradation of the fabric that holds Texas together.” He says such rulings would also be a “total usurping of the sovereignty of the state of Texas,” which he intends to prevent.

Good luck with that, Cecil, because:  

“If the federal courts end up finally concluding – likely as a result of a Supreme Court decision – that there is a federal constitutional right to have one’s same-sex marriage recognized by states, then these laws would obviously be unconstitutional,” says Eugene Volokh, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Law.

Both bills say the legislation is immune from federal court challenges under the Constitution’s 11th Amendment, which limits the ability of people to sue states. Volokh says that's not accurate and that the bills “obviously can’t trump federal law.”

In fact, Chumley's bill appears to run afoul of South Carolina's state constitution, which says judges' salaries can't be diminished. And there's a chance Bell's bill could actually hasten the arrival of marriage equality in Texas, according to George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley

“The interesting prospect would be for a challenge to this law to move more quickly in the courts than the same-sex marriage ban challenge,” he says. “If a court were to get to the final merits on this legislation first, it could feel obligated to broaden the review to first consider the constitutionality of the same-sex ban before evaluating the constitutionality of the collateral limitation.”

Bell disagrees that his effort may inadvertently help supporters of same-sex marriage. “I don’t think that’s the case," he says. “That side of the world has never needed any incentive to litigate. They litigate for no reason at all.”

Even though we already knew these bills were unconstitutional, it's still reassuring to hear experts confirm that Bell and Chumney won't be able to deprive any gays of their wedding cake. After all, it's been obvious since our first post about Bell last week that he's a fan of the stuff, and now we've uncovered even more evidence from his Facebook page showing that when it comes to anti-gay wingnuts, he really takes the cake: 


Check out two more shots, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Pro-Gay, No Pay? No Way, Legal Experts Say" »

States Defending Gay Marriage Bans Costing Taxpayers Millions In Attorney Fees


Plaintiffs in successful same-sex marriage lawsuits have been awarded more than $800,000 in attorneys fees' from states that defended the bans, with another $2.6 million in requests pending, according to a new report from The National Law Journal: 

Federal district judges across the country have issued nearly three dozen rulings since late 2013 declaring state same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Attorney fee petitions haven't been filed yet in the majority of those cases as they go before circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The fee awards, agreements and requests to date offer an early snapshot of what these landmark civil rights cases could cost taxpayers. ... 

Plaintiffs who prevail in federal civil rights cases can collect legal fees from the losing side. Congress set up the fee-shifting rule as an incentive for lawyers to take on time-consuming and expensive civil rights litigation, said Deborah Ferguson, lead counsel for the couples who fought Idaho's gay marriage ban.

In Idaho, the plaintiffs' attorneys were awarded a whopping $410,663 — the most in any state thus far. But that hasn't stopped Republican Gov. Butch Otter from continuing his futile defense of the state's marriage ban in court. The other states where plaintiffs' attorneys fees have been awarded or agreed to in same-sex marriage cases are Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon and Virginia. Requests are pending in Alaska, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys fees don't include the cost to taxpayers of states paying their lawyers or hiring outside counsel to defend the bans — or, for that matter, lost revenue from wedding-related spending where same-sex marriage is still not legal. 

All told, it seems that defending discrimination isn't cheap, and states that continue to fight same-sex marriage better be prepared to pay up. And the irony is, many of the same folks who advocate lower taxes are the same ones fighting hardest to deprive same-sex couples of the freedom to marry.  

Why Marriage Equality in Florida Is a Sign of Good Things to Come


When last we spoke, the freedom to marry had just been handed a setback: the Sixth Circuit let stand marriage discrimination laws in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Over the holiday season, though, we took many steps forward in defiance of that egregious and wrongheaded appellate court opinion: Marriage equality officially came to Montana and South Carolina. And although she tried every trick in her book, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could not stop the arc of justice from sweeping ashore in the Sunshine State.

The arrival of marriage freedom in Florida is particularly notable because of how it happened.

BondiIn Florida, a federal district court judge ruled in August that the state's marriage ban was unconstitutional; the judge stayed his decision until January 5, 2015. The Republicans running the state wanted to delay as much as possible as they appealed the judge's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But neither the district court nor the circuit court would grant the state a stay beyond January 5. So, Attorney General Bondi asked the Supreme Court. The Court said no, with only Justice Scalia and Thomas willing to issue the stay.

Note the difference between South Carolina and Montana, on the one hand, and Florida on the other. South Carolina is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit, which declared Virginia's marriage ban unconstitutional some time ago. Montana is in the Ninth Circuit, which made a similar decision in Idaho's case in October. Because marriage equality was just steps away from all the other states in those jurisdictions as a result of the appellate court decisions, the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in the South Carolina case.

Florida is in the Eleventh Circuit, which has not had occasion to rule on a gay marriage case. So the Supreme Court's refusal to grant a stay and to allow marriages to start in Florida was a stronger pro-equality signal than denying a stay in South Carolina.


Continue reading "Why Marriage Equality in Florida Is a Sign of Good Things to Come" »

South Carolina Town Where Lesbian Police Chief Was Fired, Rehired Adds LGBT Job Protections: VIDEO


It's not often we get to say this, but it's a great week to be gay in the Palmetto State. 

Not only is South Carolina's LGBT community celebrating the arrival of marriage equality, but WBTW Channel 13 reports that the town of Latta — where lesbian police Chief Crystal Moore (above) was fired, then rehired in April — has added LGBT job protections for its workers. 

The new policies, which prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, are a direct response to the controversy over Moore, who claimed she was fired by Mayor Earl Bullard for being gay.

Bullard issued Moore seven reprimands in one day, the first in her 20-plus year career. But he denied he fired her for being gay, even though Councilman Jared Taylor provided a recording to a TV station in which Bullard said he'd rather have an alcoholic take care of his kids than a gay person with a “questionable” lifestyle. 

The town's residents and council members rallied to Moore's defense, with voters quickly approving a measure weakening the mayor's powers. When Bulllard tried to hire someone to replace Moore, the council blocked him and rehired her instead. 

The new nondiscrimination policies were actually approved last month, and Latta becomes the smallest city in South Carolina with LGBT job protections, joining Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, North Charleston and Richland County, according to WBTW. 

Councilman Taylor, who leaked the recording of Bullard, said the policies wouldn't have passed if it weren't for the town's support for Moore: 

“We don't care what you are or what you believe in,” Taylor said. “If you get the job done, you're adequate at your job and you excel at your job, we feel like you should have an opportunity to work and live in our community.” ... 

“Our community rallied around the individual for who she was instead of what she was." 

Of course, there still are no federal or state job protetions for LGBT workers in South Carolina, which Moore called "crazy." 

“As long as I do my job and it doesn't interfere, my personal life should be just that: My personal life,” Moore said. “The town passing an ordinance is just one step to making sure everyone is equal." 

The nondiscrimination policies passed 6-0, but shockingly, Mayor Bullard was not present to vote on them. Maybe he couldn't find a baby-sitter. 

Watch WBTW's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "South Carolina Town Where Lesbian Police Chief Was Fired, Rehired Adds LGBT Job Protections: VIDEO" »

SCOTUS Denies Emergency Stay in South Carolina Gay Marriage Case, Applications to Begin at Noon Today

ScThe U.S. Supreme Court has denied South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson's request for an emergency stay on last week's federal ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

South Carolina NBC station WIS10 reports:

In a brief statement, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices denied the stay, but Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas said they would hear it.

Expect same-sex marriage applications to begin at noon today (even though at least one probate judge has jumped the gun and already began marrying gay couples in the state.)

First Same-Sex Couples Receive Marriage Licenses in South Carolina: VIDEO


Despite earlier reports that stated same-sex marriage would not begin in South Carolina until Thursday at noon, Probate Judge Irvin Condon has begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who had filed for them prior to October 9 of this year. It was on that date when Condon was ordered to stop granting licenses to same-sex couples. Six couples have reportedly said "I do" thanks to the move made by Condon and, unless U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts steps in, more couples will be able to make it official starting tomorrow. WCSC reports:

According to Nichols [Judge Condon's attorney], Judge Condon can issue the licenses due to a US district court ruling filed Tuesday that orders South Carolina to legally recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Judge Condon began issuing the licenses to applicants who met all qualifications starting Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. According to Nichols, Judge Condon could have waited until Thursday at Noon to begin issuing licenses.

All marriage applications require a 24-hour waiting period, which Nichols says has already passed in these cases.

"We're absolutely thrilled! We knew going into this we weren't doing it for ourselves but doing it for us, my son and for all the other people who really were afraid to take that step forward," said Condon shortly after the ruling came down Tuesday.

Kayla Bennett and Kristin Anderson (pictured above) had the state's first officially recognized same-sex wedding. Also present today were Charleston County councilwoman Colleen Condon and her fiance, Nichols Bleckley. The pair were first in line to receive their marriage license this morning. Bleckledy said, "I do hope that every parent, teacher takes a moment today to explain to kids what's going on and how historic this moment is."

Watch a new report on Condon's decision, AFTER THE JUMP...

[Photo via Twitter]

Continue reading "First Same-Sex Couples Receive Marriage Licenses in South Carolina: VIDEO" »


Towleroad - Blogged