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South Carolina Attorney General Asks Fourth Circuit for Stay on Gay Marriage Ruling Pending Appeal

As expected, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has filed an appeal with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals asking for a stay on U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel's Wednesday ruling overturning the state's gay marriage ban.

The Associated Press reports:

Alan wilsonWilson asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday to stay the judge's order until the entire appeals panel can consider the issue.

In the alternative, if the appeals court doesn't issue a stay, Wilson asked for time to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 4th Circuit has already struck down Virginia's gay marriage ban, a 2-1 ruling that applied to other states in the circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that case last month and South Carolina remains the only state in the circuit refusing to allow such marriages.

In asking for the stay, Wilson argued the dissenting opinion in the Virginia case was the correct one.

That opinion supports South Carolina's position that "same-sex marriage restrictions do not discriminate on the basis of sex and that South Carolina's definition of marriage, dating from colonial times, a union of a man and a woman is supported by rational grounds," Wilson wrote in his request.

Last week, the 10th Circuit denied a similar request by Kansas' officials seeking a stay on ruling overturning that state's gay marraige ban. Marriage equality began in Kansas yesterday. 

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson To 'Immediately Appeal' Injunction Against State's Marriage Ban

6a00d8341c730253ef01b7c6ee8019970b-200wiFollowing Federal Judge Richard Mark Gergel's ruling striking down South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage today, the state's Attorney General Alan Wilson announced he will appeal Gergel's ruling "immediately", well ahead of the November 20 deadline Gergel set for the state. The appeal will be filed with the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which has previously struck down bans on same-sex marriage. However, in his announcement, Wilson made sure to reference the 6th Circuit's recent decision against gay marriage and insists that marriage laws are unique enough in South Carolina as to warrant "their day in court." WCSC reports:

"Today's ruling comes as no surprise and does not change the constitutional obligation of this Office to defend South Carolina law," Wilson said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. 

Wilson cites the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recent upholding of "traditional" marriage as a reason for the U.S. Supreme Court to step in to resolve the matter.

The attorney general said South Carolina's laws on marriage are unlike those in any other states, and therefore "should have their day in court at the highest appropriate level."

Wilson's move does not come as a surprise given his history of adamantly advocating for the state's gay marriage ban. 


Federal Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban In South Carolina: READ

6a00d8341c730253ef01bb079f53f5970d-250wiA federal judge has struck down South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. The Washington Blade reports:

In a 26-page decision issued on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel, an Obama appointee, determines the South Carolina’s ban on gay nuptials violates same-sex couples’ rights to equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Gergel bases his decision on an earlier ruling from the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals against the marriage ban in Virginia, which lies in the same judicial circuit as South Carolina. “While a party is certainly free to argue against precedent, even very recent precedent, the Fourth Circuit has exhaustively addressed the issues raised by Defendants and firmly and unambiguously recognized a fundamental right of same sex couples to marry and the power of the federal courts to address and vindicate that right,” Gergel writes. 

Just last week, South Carolina filed a motion with Judge Gergel asking him to oppose a requested injunction on the state's marriage ban.

Though Gergel's decision comes as welcome news to advocates of marriage equality everywhere, he has issued a one week stay of his decision until November 20 at noon, meaning same-sex couples in the Palmetto State will not be able to marry until that time.

Read Gergel's decision, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Federal Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban In South Carolina: READ" »


South Carolina Governor Files Brief Opposing Challenge to State's Gay Marriage Ban

South Carolina's Governor Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a brief late Monday asking a federal judge to oppose a request for an injunction that would strike down the state's ban on gay marriage. The case was brought by Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her partner, Nichols Bleckley, the Post and Courier reports:

HaleyBleckley and Condon filed the lawsuit seeking to marry following the U.S. Supreme Court's Oct. 6 refusal to review an appellate case overturning Virginia's gay marriage ban. The couple requested U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel issue a preliminary injunction prohibiting state officials from enforcing the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

However, a preliminary injunction is an "extraordinary and drastic remedy" designed to avoid "irreparable harm," which attorneys for Haley and Wilson contend hasn't been proven.

If Gergel grants the injunction, the defendants want him to issue a stay while they appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. "The window should not be opened on same-sex marriages at the substantial risk of closure again should the Defendants' appeal be successful," the brief says.

Gergel could rule anytime after Wednesday, the deadline for a response from lawyers for Condon and Bleckley.

Haley and Wilson are both making re-election bids in today's election.


ACLU Files Lawsuit Against South Carolina's Gay Marriage Ban

Another lawsuit has been filed against South Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage, this time after the state DMV refused to recognize three plaintiffs name change because each of these individuals is married to a person of the same sex.

The Associated Press reports

South carolinaThe American Civil Liberties Union and SC Equality filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court. Each plaintiff was married in another state and chose to change his or her surname but had an application to do so denied by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Victoria Middleton, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina, explained, “The Department of Motor Vehicles should not be in the business of deciding whether or not a marriage is valid.  It may demand proper documentation of a name change in order to guard against fraud.  It is unconstitutional, however, to treat citizens differently who present exactly the same documentation. There is no rational basis to assume that a person married to someone of the same sex is more likely to change his or her name fraudulently than someone married to a person of a different sex.”

Last week, we reported that a federal judge had fast-tracked a separate challenge to South Carolina's gay marriage ban and could rule early as November 3.

South Carolina remains the only state under the Fourth Circuit's jurisdiction to not have marriage equality


Federal Judge Fast-tracks Challenge to South Carolina's Gay Marriage Ban, Could Rule By Nov. 3

South carolinaA summary judgement challenge to South Carolina's gay marriage ban filed by Lambda Legal on behalf of two Charleston women could be decided early next month after a federal judge denied South Carolina's request for extra time to file responses, The Post and Courier reports:

During a conversation in court Friday with attorneys on both sides, Gergel denied a verbal request from a state Attorney General lawyer to extend by three days a Nov. 3 deadline to file responses to the couple's injunction request.

"The plaintiff in this case has asserted irreparable injury" due to being denied a marriage license, Gergel said.

"They are entitled to an expeditious review," he added.

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

There is no reason why South Carolinians should be denied the freedom to marry one more day. The Fourth Circuit’s decision is binding on South Carolina and Governor Haley and Attorney General Wilson should not be allowed to continue to ignore the rule of law. There really is only one legal and logical result--we’re urging the court to allow same-sex couples in South Carolina to marry without any further delay.

A separate lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage was filed earlier this week. 

South Carolina remains the only state under the Fourth Circuit's jurisdiction to not have marriage equality. 


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